US prosecutor demands Facebook remove Messenger’s encryption

The US prosecutor is trying to get Facebook to remove the encryption on its Messenger app so that authorities can eavesdrop on a suspect’s VoIP conversations. The matter has resulted in a lawsuit and Facebook is resisting.

The details of the federal case are not public, as the case is under seal, or behind closed doors. Three anonymous Reuters sources open up about the prosecutor’s demands. The prosecutor wants the judge to rule that Facebook shows contempt of court with its resistance.

The prosecutor is investigating a member of a so-called MS-13 gang, a violent criminal group that is also involved in drug trafficking. One of the members is said to have enabled Messenger’s optional e2e encryption and use the app’s voice function to communicate with other gang members.

The case is reminiscent of the San Bernadino lawsuit. The FBI wanted to look into the iPhone 5c of the late gunman Rizwan Farook, who along with an accomplice shot 14 people in 2015. The iPhone was encrypted, and the FBI wanted Apple’s help in the form of modified firmware that would undo the encryption. Apple refused, because such firmware would jeopardize the security of all its devices, not just Farook’s. The FBI dropped the case after it gained access to the phone’s contents with the help of an unknown company, presumably Cellebrite.