Facebook and WhatsApp will have to share private data of users with the UK police, as per the new US-UK treaty set to be signed by next month.
Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act or Cloud act mandates Facebook and WhatsApp to disclose the electronic communication of the individuals to the British authorities.
It is important to note that the term “electronic communication” does not necessarily mean disclosure of “encrypted messages”. In fact, at one point the Cloud act states that “[it] does not create any new authority for law enforcement to compel service providers to decrypt communications.”
Even if the tech giant did share the encrypted conversations of users, it would be of no use to officials since it is humanly impossible to decrypt.
However, the British authorities will get access to metadata information such as profile pictures, timestamps, IP addresses, contact lists, etc. The claws of the new act might extend to Instagram and Facebook Messenger as well since they don’t have end-to-end encryption, to begin with.
From being used for hate speech to sharing of child sexual abuse material, Facebook is gradually becoming the hub of all bad things. As a preventative measure, Priti Patel, the U.K.’s home secretary, called out social media platforms to develop “back doors” which would allow authorities to access all the information shared between users.
Cloud Act might seem like the bad guy, however as Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos pointed out, the law doesn’t demand anything new that the US courts haven’t already.
Which brings us to today, on the precipice of the first CLOUD Act agreement being signed by the US and UK. This agreement would allow UK courts to issue requests equivalent to US courts, but it DOES NOT grant them access to anything a US court can't get already.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) September 29, 2019
Facebook believes that the Cloud Act is enough to strike a balance between sharing of data while not infringing user’s privacy.
“Government policies like the Cloud Act allow for companies to provide available information when we receive valid legal requests and do not require companies to build back doors,” said Facebook