WhatsApp could become illegal in the UK and stop working on millions of phones
WhatsApp could be banned in the UK with consequences for millions of users, the app's boss has warned.
Will Cathcart, who is in charge of WhatsApp at Meta, has claimed that the UK government's controversial Online Safety Bill will have devastating consequences for the messaging app.
That's because the Tory government wants to weaken the end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp currently uses to prevent messages being snooped on.
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The app currently encrypts the messages you send to ensure that only you and the person you're texting can read them.
But the government's Online Safety Bill would demand that WhatsApp gives up this protection so that authorities can check people's messages for 'illegal content'.
Mr Cathcart said that if the bill goes ahead, WhatsApp will refuse to do this—which could lead to it being banned entirely in the UK.
He said: "Our users all around the world want security—98% of our users are outside the UK, they do not want us to lower the security of the product."
Mr Cathcart added: "We won't lower the security of WhatsApp. We have never done that—and we have accepted being blocked in other parts of the world."
WhatsApp competitor app Signal has also criticised the bill, saying that it is "poised to undermine encryption and create a regime of mass surveillance".
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Responding to Mr Cathcart's comments, the UK government denied it wants to ban end-to-end encryption.
The government told the BBC: "The Online Safety Bill does not represent a ban on end-to-end encryption. It is not a choice between privacy or child safety—we can and we must have both."
However, the Information Commissioner's Office admitted that it is looking at 'necessary and proportionate' measures to weaken encryption.
It said: "Where less intrusive measures are available, they should be used," and added that it supports "technological solutions that facilitate the detection of illegal content without undermining privacy protections for everyone."
It is also not clear how the government would even be able to examine encrypted WhatsApp messages for illegal content without breaking the encryption system currently in place.
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