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WTF: Facebook and WhatsApp can now share your data with the U.K. Police

Everything is truly terrible.

facebook login screen on phone
Image: KnowTechie

A new treaty between the U.S. and the U.K. could mean your electronic communications like Messenger chats or email would end up in the hands of the U.K. Police. You’d have to actually be suspected of serious crimes though, so maybe you don’t have to worry.

Early reporting stated that this breaks the encrypted features of services such as WhatsApp, but that’s not the case. This just puts U.K courts on a level footing with U.S. courts in the types of information they can request from communications platforms.

The CLOUD Act means companies like Facebook or WhatsApp will share information with the UK

The CLOUD (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) Act basically lays down some ground rules that providers of electronic messaging services need to follow.

Those include things like:

  • “preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication”
  • This is true whether or not the provider is inside the U.S. or not
  • The U.S. and U.K. also agreed not to investigate each other’s citizens
  • Any case carrying the death penalty in the U.S. won’t be able to use information obtained from British companies

Note that the Act doesn’t compel electronic communication providers who have encrypted communication methods to break the encryption. That makes your WhatsApp message content safe (for now), but the metadata of messages isn’t. Metadata is all the associated information, like time it was sent, IP addresses involved, phone numbers, contact lists, and profile pictures.

What do you think? Surprised by the news here regarding your Facebook and WhatsApp messages? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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