WhatsApp encryption a growing problem for Netherlands crime fighters

The Netherlands' Public Prosecutor and intelligence service AIVD are having more and more trouble with message encryption on messaging services like WhatsApp, prosecutor Martijn Egberts said to broadcaster NOS. The encryption means that crime fighters face difficult challenges when they want to read a suspect's communication.

"What we would prefer to see is that, after review by a judge, we could still get access to encrypted information", Egberts said to the broadcaster. That would mean that companies like WhatsApp should give the authorities access to users' messages. Egberts compares it to bugging a telephone, something that's been possible for decades. "It is quite remarkable that there are now so many ways to communicate without the government being able to gain access."

An increasing number of messaging apps are offering encrypted communication. And many smartphones are encrypted by default. Popular company WhatsApp now even offers end-to-end encryption, which means that only the message sender and receiver can see the message, not even WhatsApp itself.

While this offers many advantages, including peace of mind that you are communicating safely, encryption also makes it harder for the police and intelligence services to investigate. "In the vast majority of investigations into organized crime, we encounter encryption, which makes it harder to detect", Egberts said to the broadcaster. "Then you have to think of assassinations, extortion, drug cases and child pornography."