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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The U.S., along with the U.K. and Australia, has sent a letter to Facebook asking it to halt implementation of end-to-end encryption tech in its services, in order to keep messages accessible to law enforcement.

Why it matters: The request marks the latest twist in a long-running debate over encryption, with some arguing for government backdoors and others maintaining that there is no way to provide them without compromising security and privacy.

  • Facebook's move to encrypt Messenger and Instagram messages would significantly expand the proportion of all messaging that is encrypted, but Facebook's WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage are already encrypted from end to end.

The big picture: Facebook's pivot to encrypted messaging, announced last winter, is raising tons of questions, from how the company will make money to how to combat child pornography, human trafficking and cybercrime.

Asked about the issue at an employee Q&A Thursday (which Facebook broadcast publicly), CEO Mark Zuckerberg said one reason the company announced the move toward encrypted messaging years ahead of actually doing so was to consult with law enforcement and child safety groups on how best to mitigate potential harms.

  • "I still think that the equities are generally in favor of moving towards end-to-end encryption," Zuckerberg said.

What they're saying:

  • U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel: "So far nothing we have seen from Facebook reassures me that their plans for end-to-end encryption will not act as a barrier to the identification and pursuit of criminals operating on their platforms. Companies cannot operate with impunity where lives and the safety of our children is at stake, and if Mr. Zuckerberg really has a credible plan to protect Facebook’s more than 2 billion users it’s time he let us know what it is."
  • Facebook: A spokesperson said the company believes "people have the right to have a private conversation online, wherever they are in the world," and noted that more than 1 billion people send encrypted messages every day. The company's statement added that it respects the role of law enforcement and noted that it is "consulting closely with child safety experts, governments and technology companies and devoting new teams and sophisticated technology so we can use all the information available to us to help keep people safe."
  • ACLU senior legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani: “When a door opens for the United States, Australia, or Britain, it also opens for North Korea, Iran, and hackers that want to steal our information. Companies should resist these repeated attempts to weaken encryption that reliably protects consumers' sensitive data from identity thieves, credit card fraud, and human rights abusers.”

History lesson: The FBI got into a huge fight with Apple in 2016 after the company refused to rewrite iOS to make it easier for the government to crack the encrypted phone of the San Bernardino shooting suspect. The conflict never really got resolved, as the FBI found another way in.

Go deeper

32 mins ago - Technology

Facebook: Metaverse won't "move fast and break things"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook on Monday said it will invest $50 million over two years in global research and program partners to ensure its metaverse products "are developed responsibly."

Why it matters: "It's almost the opposite of that now long-abandoned slogan of 'move fast and break things,'" Facebook's VP of global affairs Nick Clegg told Axios in an interview at The Atlantic Festival Monday.

Ina Fried, author of Login
41 mins ago - Technology

Facebook presses "pause" on Instagram Kids

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Facebook's announcement Monday that it was "pausing development" on Instagram Kids did little to slow a wave of criticism of the project ahead of a Senate hearing Thursday.

Yes, but: There's an argument to be made for building kids' versions of popular apps, even if their adult versions are causing real-world harms.

Ford's big plans to turbocharge the electric car industry in the U.S.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ford Motor Company’s new $11 billion manufacturing plan, the biggest component of which will sit just outside Memphis, is part of a much bigger effort to put the U.S. at the center of the electric vehicle revolution, executive chairman Bill Ford says.

The big picture: Ford’s plans — for enormous facilities in both Tennessee and Kentucky, employing a combined 11,000 workers — are ambitious manufacturing efforts designed to minimize their environmental impact.