[messaging] Second thoughts on WhatsApp encryption

Tom Ritter tom at ritter.vg
Fri Nov 21 09:07:00 PST 2014

On 21 November 2014 10:57, Joseph Bonneau <jbonneau at gmail.com> wrote:
> While we're having Amateur Political Science Friday in this thread though, I
> think it's an interesting question what "the right thing" to do is for
> WhatsApp or any other provider facing demands to turn crypto off (or
> severely weaken it) to get their app into country X. My initial reaction is
> I'd like them to stand tall, refuse to modify their product and let it be
> blocked. I can see an argument though that a better strategy is to comply at
> first. If they stand tall, odds are some inferior local app will take their
> place with terrible security that's totally controlled by the local
> government. If they ship a weakened product, they may try to upgrade it
> later after they've achieved substantial local deployment. Or they can
> upgrade it quickly if the government falls or changes policy. On the other
> hand, it's much likely to be much more visible (and unpopular) if country X
> has to actively block foreign products with encryption. The governments in
> China and Iran pay some political price for blocking Facebook, Twitter, etc.
> I'd probably still come down on the side of not shipping weakened products,
> but I expect many companies will come to a different decision and it's
> probably worthwhile for us to think technically about how to have the most
> secure product while trying to accommodate constraints like this.

I think the number one factor that determines what they
can/should/might do is whether or not they have employees or a legal
venue in the country of question that can be threatened, imprisoned,
or effectively sued/fined into nonexistence.  If they do have such a
presence, and want to make any sort of stand, their options are either
to abandon their people, which would be a horrible decision in an of
itself, or lay them off (or offer to relocate them).


More information about the Messaging mailing list