WhatsApp’s CEO has warned that the app could be banned in the United Kingdom.
According to Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp at parent company Meta, the UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill could force the app to weaken the end-to-end encryption that currently secures messages on the service.
He confirmed that if the government forced WhatsApp to weaken its security, the company would refuse, leaving open the possibility of the app being banned entirely within the country.
End-to-end encryption protects messages by ensuring that only those who send and receive them can read them, and that even the services themselves do not have access to them.
Technology companies and security experts say it is necessary to protect messages from hacking and other threats – but officials including those in the UK have argued that it should be weakened so that messages can be scanned for illegal content.
Mr Cathcart expressed shock that the company would be forced into such a policy in the UK. But he said that the upcoming legislation does not give proper confidence that the app would not be forced into weakening its own privacy.
“It’s a remarkable thing to think about,” he said. “The experience we’ve faced all around the world is that’s only happened in governments that were trying to crack down on their citizens’ ability to communicate freely.”
If the UK’s government were to push for such changes, it would “shape what other countries all around the world ask for on different topics, on different issues”, he said.