WhatsApp & iMessage face UK ban on anti-terrorism grounds

The Prime Minister sets out plans to ban encrypted messaging services on anti-terrorism grounds

The Prime Minister David Cameron wants to clampdown on the use of encrypted messaging services, such as WhatsApp and iMessage, to prevent terrorist attacks in Britain.

Speaking at an event yesterday, Cameron said he wants to outlaw the use of online messaging services that cannot be intercepted by the security services on surveillance grounds.

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That is the key principle: do we allow safe spaces for terrorists to talk? I say no, we don't.

If the Conservatives remain in power after 2015, smartphone and tablet users in Britain may be prevented from using popular services such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, iMessage and Facetime.

"The next government will have to legislate again in 2016. If I am Prime Minister, I will make sure that it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other," he said.

"That is the key principle: do we allow safe spaces for them to talk to each other? I say no, we don't, and we should legislate accordingly."

Cameron's statement of intent comes hot on the heels of last week's shootings in Paris, which saw 12 employees of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killed by extremists.    

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"The attacks in Paris once again demonstrated the scale of the terrorist threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies and policing in order to keep our people safe," he said.

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"The powers that I believe we need, whether on communications data or on the content of communications, I am very comfortable that those are absolutely right for a modern, liberal democracy."                       

His comments have fuelled speculation the Government could be poised to push ahead once more with efforts to introduce the Communications Data Bill.

The controversial piece of legislation, also known as The Snoopers Charter, seeks to make it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access communications data, forcing ISPs and websites to store information on users for at least 12 months.

In response to Cameron's comments, Emma Carr, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said using the Paris attack to breathe new life into the legislation would be "wholly unacceptable" and a waste of resources.

"It is the wrong solution and would divert resources from focused surveillance operations at a time when the agencies are already struggling to cope with the volume of information available," she said.

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"Instead, the Government should focus on the number of failures to continue monitoring those suspected of posing a threat.

"Those failures should be used as a blueprint to re-evaluate the decision making and record keeping processes of the intelligence agencies, as well as the training and resources allocated within the counter terrorism community," Carr added.                                                                                                                                                  

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