Facebook Fights US Government Demand to Break Messenger Encryption in Criminal Case

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Facebook is contesting a demand from the U.S. government that it break the encryption of its popular Messenger app so that law enforcement can listen in to a suspect's conversations as part of an ongoing investigation into the MS-13 gang.

The U.S. Department of Justice's demand is in relation to a case proceeding in a federal court in California that is currently under seal, so public files are unavailable. However, Reuters' sources said the judge in the case heard arguments on Tuesday on a government motion to hold Facebook in contempt of court for refusing to carry out the surveillance request.

Facebook says it can only comply with the government's request if it rewrites the code relied upon by all its users to remove encryption or else hacks the government's current target, according to Reuters.

Legal experts differed over whether the government would likely be able to force Facebook to comply. However, if the government gets its way in the case, experts say the precedent could allow it to make similar arguments to force other tech companies to compromise their encrypted communications services.

Messaging platforms like Signal, Telegram, Facebook's WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage all use end-to-end encryption that prevents communications between sender and recipient from being accessed by anyone else, including the service providers.

Tech companies have pushed back against previous attempts by authorities to break encryption methods, such as the FBI's request that Apple help it hack into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

In February 2016, a U.S. federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI, but Apple opposed the order in an open letter penned by Tim Cook, who said the FBI's request would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption.

Apple's dispute with the FBI ended on March 28, 2016 after the government found an alternate way to access the data on the iPhone with the help of a private contractor and withdrew the lawsuit.

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Article Link: Facebook Fights US Government Demand to Break Messenger Encryption in Criminal Case
 

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,266
After Facebook’s recent privacy scandal they are desperate to regain users’ trust. As a result this now means that they’ll be fighting these sorts of points ardently when they might not have before.

It’s good to see a positive effect rise from their misconduct.
 

Kabeyun

macrumors 68030
Mar 27, 2004
2,769
5,182
Eastern USA
After Facebook’s recent privacy scandal they are desperate to regain users’ trust. As a result this now means that they’ll be fighting these sorts of points ardently when they might not have before.

It’s good to see a positive effect rise from their misconduct.
Maybe. But remember Facebook supported Apple in the encryption case and is part of the Reform Surveillance Coalition. So this position isn’t new.
 

JosephAW

macrumors 68040
May 14, 2012
3,243
3,810
I don't believe any of this. They probably already have them access years ago, this is just a publicity stunt between the government and FB that they agreeded to behind closed doors in order to feign a fight that they are trying to protect user's privacy.
 

Pakaku

macrumors 68020
Aug 29, 2009
2,283
2,396
I don't believe any of this. They probably already have them access years ago, this is just a publicity stunt between the government and FB that they agreeded to behind closed doors in order to feign a fight that they are trying to protect user's privacy.
Somehow I really doubt the Department of Justice would agree to hindering their own work just for the sake of helping a social media network look good...
 

I7guy

macrumors Core
Nov 30, 2013
23,850
12,056
Gotta be in it to win it
Opinions will obviously vary here, but one can’t support Apple in the San Bernardino shooter case and not back Facebook in this case. Or vice versa.
I'm supporting the stance, the government is entitled to get the messages, and decrypt them on their own, but don't create back doors. We all know where that would go.
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I don't believe any of this. They probably already have them access years ago, this is just a publicity stunt between the government and FB that they agreeded to behind closed doors in order to feign a fight that they are trying to protect user's privacy.
Same with apple in the San Bernadino case?
 
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dannyyankou

macrumors G3
Mar 2, 2012
9,494
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Westchester, NY
So if the government has a valid search warrant, work with Facebook on a case by case basis. Don’t break the encryption so the government can spy on us more. They already collect data on hundreds of millions of phone users
 
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Sill

macrumors 6502a
Nov 14, 2014
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The DOJ should just call the CIA and ask for the info they want. Justice will end up having to "owe them a big one", but they'll get what they want.
 

bpcookson

macrumors 6502
Apr 6, 2012
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It would be critical to note that Apple’s prior defense hinged on the idea that code is protected as free speech, and you can’t force someone to write code just as you can’t force someone to say something.
 
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MacBH928

macrumors 601
May 17, 2008
4,559
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Somehow I really doubt the Department of Justice would agree to hindering their own work just for the sake of helping a social media network look good...
Not if Facebook has enough money to make the DoJ help them out with some image polishing.
 

brueck

macrumors regular
Jun 15, 2010
135
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I don't believe any of this. They probably already have them access years ago, this is just a publicity stunt between the government and FB that they agreeded to behind closed doors in order to feign a fight that they are trying to protect user's privacy.
I Agreeded
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
7,518
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In between a rock and a hard place
After Facebook’s recent privacy scandal they are desperate to regain users’ trust. As a result this now means that they’ll be fighting these sorts of points ardently when they might not have before.

It’s good to see a positive effect rise from their misconduct.
I dislike FB more than most. But what you're doing is "misremembering" and conflating. FB has traditionally been among the tech companies fighting against breaking encryption, along with Apple, Google, MS, etc. That can't be conflated with their usage/misuse of data. Two separate things. To suggest they're going to start fighting the gov't to improve their image paints an inaccurate picture.

I think the company is pretty trash. That's based on what they actually do. No need to make up scenarios. They're bad enough all on their own.

On topic: I hope the braintrust at FB understand they can't give in to these types of requests. The slope is way too freakin' slippery. Once the encryption door is opened, it doesn't get closed again. Fear mongering by the government is definitely not a reason to break encryption.
 
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Pangalactic

macrumors 6502
Nov 28, 2016
452
1,040
Somehow I really doubt the Department of Justice would agree to hindering their own work just for the sake of helping a social media network look good...
Not hinder, they could have just stuck a deal with Facebook (especially since Zuck doesn't seem to have a strong personality that can oppose the government) - FB gives them the decryption keys, and they in return run a fake case for Facebook to regain their user trust.

Reminds me also of the case with True Crypt. That used to be an open, independent encryption software for windows. Until one one day a mysterious message appeared that True Crypt is discontinuing their operations due to True Crypt being no longer necessary and that all users should switch to Bitlocker developed by windows ... Yeah

The point being that this stuff REALLY happens, more often than you think
 

makitango

macrumors regular
Apr 15, 2012
168
231
Nice to see how the government fails to convince even the most stupid citizens that they‘re the good guys. Like as if they couldn‘t give themselves a warrant leading to revealing the messages they warranted for.
 
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