The US Department of Justice has asked Facebook to delay its plans to implement end-to-end encryption across all its messaging services.
Facebook announced in March that it was enhancing privacy on its platforms. The company is also consolidating messaging in its Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram services with end-to-end encryption.
In an open letter to the company, Attorney General William Barr states that the DOJ is concerned that Facebook’s encryption would be harmful to the investigation and prosecution of offenders of crimes like terrorism, extortion, and the sexual exploitation of children.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the number of reports of child sexual abuse material on Messenger reached nearly 12 million in 2018.
Barr says that the DOJ acknowledges the importance of strong encryption for services like banking, commerce and the protection of users’ privacy, but reiterates that security improvements to the virtual world “should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world”.
“We must find a way to balance the need to secure data with public safety and the need for law enforcement to access the information they need to safeguard the public, investigate crimes and prevent future criminal activity,” Barr states.
The DOJ asked that Facebook allow law enforcement agencies to access the required content in a lawful manner.