Frances Haugen (often referred to as “the Facebook whistleblower”) surprised government surveillance opponents over the weekend when she spoke skeptically about end encryption in an interview with London Telegraph
Today, Haugen will testify before the British Parliament’s committee on Online Safety. This bill will tell online platforms which content is allowed and what it will prohibit.
Haugen submitted internal Facebook documents which she claims show that Facebook does not care about the safety or welfare of its users. It is possible to imagine that Haugen would love for Facebook to implement end-to-end encrypted private messaging. End-to end encryption makes it more difficult for corrupt governments and predatory hackers to access your private data.
Haugen seems to be a believer in the importance of encrypted data being available to the right people. Haugen attempts to portray Facebook’s privacy function as an excuse for Facebook to not take responsibility. She gave an example that suggested Facebook should have looser encryption to protect Uyghurs from being infected by spyware.
“She warned that Facebook will not be able to uncover such operations if it goes ahead with its controversial plans to encrypt its Messenger app as well as Instagram’s direct messages—meaning not even the company will see what users are sending,” The Telegraph reported. Haugen says that Facebook won’t even be able stop Chinese hackers from sending them malware messages.
She argues that Facebook implements end-to-end encryption to provide better privacy protection for users.
A spokesperson for Facebook responded The Telegraph with what we all should realize at this point is the responsible approach to encryption: “The reason we believe in end-to-end encryption is precisely so that we can keep people safe, including from foreign interference and surveillance as well as hackers and criminals.” No encryption backdoors can be accessed by anyone but the right people. These back doors can exist if it is possible to find them or access them by others.
Haugen’s comments attracted attention from Alec MuffettDo you remember?, the person who was responsible for implementing Facebook Messenger’s end-to–end encryption. He left the company in 2016, and his internal farewell essay—which Haugen leaked—described his burnout and frustration that Facebook was prioritizing growth and profit over protecting its users.
Although it may seem a lot like Haugen’s, Muffett finds her attacks on encryption alarming. He wrote Sunday in a blog: Frances, please let the authorities know that you have read it. [Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport]Committee up front, don’t allow them to distract you or discourage you. People need privacy that end-to-end encryption provides. However, platforms and governments shouldn’t interfere with people’s communications.
Muffett further down notes that Uighurs would be able to use damaging encryption if they had access to Haugen’s information. Continue readingSensitive to surveillance. He says her ill-considered criticisms of encryption are “playing squarely into the hands of despots, censors, and corrupt politicians—those who want to break the Internet into parochial ‘splinternets’ that foist local mores onto a global audience.”
Muffett can also be reasonably priced asksTwitter: “Should Facebook take responsibility for #EU citizens being protected from malware state-sponsored?” [Government Communications Headquarters—the United Kingdom’s intelligence agency]” A weakening of encryption could make it easier to install malware on users’ systems by Western governments. This doesn’t only apply to Russia and China. Facebook is responsible for protecting users against surveillance from China. Wouldn’t this be the case with America or England?