Authorities seek access to Facebook encrypted messaging

Authorities seek access to Facebook encrypted messaging

NEW YORK — Local police are pushing back against a Facebook plan to protect your privacy.

The social media giant wants to encrypt conversations you send through Facebook Messenger.  It would ensure that no one else can see them, but local officers told Channel 9 it could put your safety at risk.

[FBI, Facebook could clash over privacy vs. monitoring]

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“It would be a major hindrance to investigations if that were done,” said Rowan County Chief Deputy David Ramsey.

Sheriff Darren Campbell said the same thing Friday.  He pointed to a 2007 murder case involving Craigslist.

In 2014, Bernard Lamp was convicted of murdering Bonnie Lou Irvine, a woman he connected with on Craigslist. Detectives in Iredell County used a court order to access private online messages, evidence that led to Lamp’s conviction.

It’s a process that they also use with Facebook Messenger.  Detectives in Rowan County said they also use the same process to solve crimes each year.

"We rely on a lot of the social media for investigations,” said Ramsey. "We have, in the past, obtained information through Facebook Messenger, through Facebook.”

Right now, the private messages you send through Facebook Messenger aren’t private at all.

"According to Facebook, they don't look at those messages unless they are asked by a court, or by law enforcement after a court order is given,” said Kent Downs, an IT professional.

However, Facebook has proposed implementing end-to-end encryption on platforms like Facebook Messenger and Instagram.  It is the technology that would even keep Facebook from accessing private messages.

“The only people that can read the message are the people it was sent to,” said Downs.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg talked about the plan this year in an article.

“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever,” Zuckerburg said. “This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”

However, detectives in Rowan and Iredell counties said many criminals, including drug and sex offenders, use messenger to commit crimes.

“It would be a major hindrance to investigations if that were done,” said Ramsey. “I think it's a public safety issue, a national security issue if that was allowed to be done."

This isn't just a local concern.  The Department of Justice and officials in the UK and Australia sent a letter to Facebook.

They’re asking the company to hold off on this plan until Facebook can ensure a way to give law enforcement access to content that would protect the public.