UK prime minister suggests banning encrypted apps like WhatsApp, iMessage

Having access to people's communications is vital for combating terrorism, David Cameron says

The U.K. may ban online messaging services that offer encryption such as WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage, under surveillance plans laid out by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Services that allow people to communicate without providing access to their messages pose a serious challenge to law enforcement efforts to combat terrorism and other crimes, Cameron said Monday.

He didn't name specific apps, but suggested those with encryption would not jive with new surveillance legislation he's looking to enact if he gets reelected this year. Such apps include WhatsApp, iMessage, Google Hangouts, Microsoft's Skype, CryptoCat, and more.

"In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which, even in extremists ... that we cannot read?" Cameron said, adding later, "No, we must not."

"The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe," he said.

He didn't say how the government might enforce the legislation or keep people from downloading such apps.

His comments follow the wave of shootings in Paris last week by Islamic extremists. Being able to gather information about people's communications, be that communications records or actual content, could help authorities to thwart and investigate attacks, Cameron said.

But his comments also come at a time of increased concern over government surveillance, and the loss of digital privacy in general. On the same day Cameron delivered his remarks, in the U.S. President Obama announced plans for new legislation that would give Americans more control over their data online. A Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, Obama proposed, would allow consumers to decide what pieces of their personal data are collected by companies and decide how the data is used.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobile applicationsInternet-based applications and servicesinstant messagingWhatsAppsecurityCryptocatencryptionmobile

More about AppleBillGoogleIDGMicrosoftNewsSkype

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Zach Miners

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place