According to a Saturday report in The New York Times, prosecutors have gone head-to-head with WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook. Citing anonymous sources, the Times reported that “as recently as this past week,” federal officials have been “discussing how to proceed in a continuing criminal investigation in which a federal judge had approved a wiretap, but investigators were stymied by WhatsApp’s encryption.”
The case, which apparently does not involve terrorism, remains under seal.
The government could pursue a strategy similar to the one it has employed in the ongoing terrorism investigation in San Bernardino, in which it was granted a court order that would compel Apple to create new software to defeat the encryption on a seized iPhone. Apple has vowed both publicly and in court papers to fight that order as intensely as possible, citing security concerns.
The Times noted that over the last year, WhatsApp has been upgrading encryption for messaging and voice calls.