WhatsApp must not be ‘place for terrorists to hide’
There must be “no place for terrorists to hide” and intelligence services must have access to encrypted messaging services, the home secretary has said.
Khalid Masood killed four people in Westminster this week. It is understood his phone had connected to messaging app WhatsApp two minutes earlier.
Amber Rudd said she would be meeting technology firms this week.
A WhatsApp spokeswoman said the company was “horrified at the attack” and was co-operating with the investigation.
Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Ms Rudd said: “It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.
“We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.
“It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warranty.
“But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said authorities already had “huge powers”.
There had to be a balance between the “right to know” and “the right to privacy”, he said.
All messages sent on WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption, meaning messages are unreadable if they are intercepted by anyone, including law enforcement and WhatsApp itself.
So while Masood’s phone is believed to have connected with the app, police may not know what, if anything, was communicated.
The Facebook-owned company, which has a billion users worldwide, has said protecting private communication was one of its “core beliefs”.
Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple which also uses end-to-end encryption, has previously said it would be “wrong” for governments to force Apple to “build a back door” into products.
But Ms Rudd said: “I would ask Tim Cook to think again about other ways of helping us work out how we can get into the situations like WhatsApp on the Apple phone.”
The victims of the Westminster attack were commemorated at the beginning of England’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley Stadium.
Before kick-off, four wreaths were laid in the centre of the pitch by Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner Craig Mackey, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, FA chairman Greg Clarke and Culture Secretary Karen Bradley.
A minute’s silence was also observed by fans and players.
Europol director Rob Wainwright echoed Ms Rudd’s call for changes.
“I would agree something has to be done to make sure that we can apply a more consistent form of interception of communication in all parts of the way in which terrorists invade our lives,” he told Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics.
Masood, 52, killed three people and injured 50 when he drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge on Wednesday.
He then fatally stabbed a police officer before being shot dead by police – all within 82 seconds.
Ms Rudd would not confirm who shot Masood, amid claims it was a bodyguard for Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner Craig Mackey has laid a wreath in commemoration of the Westminster attack victims at Wembley Stadium, before England’s World Cup qualifier with Lithuania.
He said: “I have been humbled by the support and gratitude from the public towards our officers the last few days.”
On Saturday the Metropolitan Police said they believed Masood acted alone.
But they added they were also “determined” to find out whether he had been inspired by terrorist propaganda.
Scotland Yard said it was possible “we will never understand why he did this”.
On Sunday the police investigation into the attack continued. In Birmingham, counter-terrorism officers were seen searching a house where friends of Masood lived.
A 58-year-old man, who was arrested in Birmingham the morning after the attack under the Terrorism Act, remains in custody, and a 32-year-old woman who was arrested in Manchester, remains on police bail, Metropolitan Police have said.
Eleven people were initially arrested over the incident and nine people in total have been released without charge.