Chat apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and iMessage could be blocked in the UK after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to ramp up internet surveillance powers to prevent terrorists from plotting attacks online.
Making an electoral campaign speech in Nottingham yesterday, Cameron indicated he would revive monitoring legislation – blocked by the Liberal Democrats – if he secures a majority in May.
The move would form form part of his new surveillance powers announced in the wake of the Charlie Hedbo shootings in Paris.
The Prime Minister he would stop the use of methods of communication that cannot be read by the security services even if they have a warrant.
That could include popular chat and social apps that encrypt their data, such as WhatsApp, SnapChat and Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime.
He said: “In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?” He made the connection between encrypted communications tools and letters and phone conversations, both of which can be read by security services in extreme situations and with a warrant from the home secretary.
But companies such as WhatsApp have remained committed to keeping their services encrypted and unable to be read by authorities, a project which has stepped up in the wake of the Edward Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance.
Cameron also revealed plans to resurrect the so-called ‘Snoopers Charter’, which granted the authorities more powers concerning the monitoring of online communications.
He plans to implement the measures if he wins the next UK general election, scheduled for May 7.