Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th Sep 2017 18:51 UTC
Internet & Networking

China has largely blocked the WhatsApp messaging app, the latest move by Beijing to step up surveillance ahead of a big Communist Party gathering next month.

The disabling in mainland China of the Facebook-owned app is a setback for the social media giant, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been pushing to re-enter the Chinese market, and has been studying the Chinese language intensively. WhatsApp was the last of Facebook products to still be available in mainland China; the company's main social media service has been blocked in China since 2009, and its Instagram image-sharing app is also unavailable.

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, which the Chinese government (and western governments) don't like. Either WhatsApp would give China a backdoor, or China would block WhatsApp. This seems to indicate WhatsApp stuck to its encryption.

Let's see what happens to the other big western messaging service with end-to-end encryption still available in China: iMessage. We can safely assume that if iMessage isn't blocked soon, Apple caved, and gave China its backdoor.

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Doesn't necessarily follow
by darknexus on Mon 25th Sep 2017 19:05 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

Apple has interests in China, with Chinese manufacturers being their only real production facilities. Facebook does not and China has no incentive to accommodate them. I'm not saying Apple didn't cave, but your logic is faulty assuming that they did just because China hasn't blocked them yet. If Apple did, or does, give China a back door I've no doubt we'll find out about it sooner rather than later. I don't think they'd be stupid enough to be this publicly in favor of user privacy only to get caught doing a deal with China but, hey, I'm a network administrator not a businessman so what do I know? ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE: Doesn't necessarily follow
by flanque on Mon 25th Sep 2017 22:06 UTC in reply to "Doesn't necessarily follow"
flanque Member since:
2005-12-15

It's very unlikely in my view.

Apple strongly protects their brand, which in my view has a material link to their stance on privacy. Imagine the damage to their reputation and stock price if they provided the backdoor and it became known. Disastrous.

I think it's far more likely that it's linked to things like Apple's investment in China, their skills at negotiation or perhaps more simply.. block WhatsApp, WeChat penetration rises - easier to backdoor that.

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Doesn't necessarily follow
by No it isnt on Wed 27th Sep 2017 15:35 UTC in reply to "RE: Doesn't necessarily follow"
No it isnt Member since:
2005-11-14

As long as China doesn't publically state that they own a backdoor to iMessage, it's not going to damage Apple's reputation at all. It's like when the iPhone didn't have app support - it was all AT&T's fault. And when iTunes had DRM, that was all music industry's fault. When Foxconn's workers committed suicide in droves, at least Apple's workers had it better than everyone else.

None of this had any truth whatsoever, but Apple fanbois thought it plausible and repeated it as fact until it stopped being relevant. Apple doesn't need to protect their brand, as their fans will do it for them.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Doesn't necessarily follow
by zima on Sat 30th Sep 2017 20:13 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Doesn't necessarily follow"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

It's like when the iPhone didn't have app support - it was all AT&T's fault.

I don't remember this one. How did they rationalise it?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Doesn't necessarily follow
by nrlz on Wed 27th Sep 2017 05:20 UTC in reply to "Doesn't necessarily follow"
nrlz Member since:
2006-01-27

Mark Zuckerberg, has been pushing to re-enter the Chinese market, and has been studying the Chinese language intensively.


I think no amount of sweet talking, even in their local language, can get around the request of the government to open up your data.

Reply Score: 2

Double standards?
by karunko on Mon 25th Sep 2017 20:20 UTC
karunko
Member since:
2008-10-28

I don't get it: is censorship good or bad? When China does it, it's bad. When Spain does it, it's bad. But, when some alt right web site gets kicked off the web then it's suddenly right?

Don't get me wrong: I have no sympathy at all for alt right (and in fact despise them and everything they stand for) but I still think that there is no good censorship. Or, as the EFF (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/08/fighting-neo-nazis-future-free...) puts it:

"Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one — not the government and not private commercial enterprises— should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t."


RT.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Double standards?
by project_2501 on Mon 25th Sep 2017 20:47 UTC in reply to "Double standards?"
project_2501 Member since:
2006-03-20

let me make it clear for you

freedom of speech does NOT include freedom to incite hatred and violence or threaten others

libel laws are similar

does that make sense yet?

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Double standards?
by acobar on Mon 25th Sep 2017 21:23 UTC in reply to "RE: Double standards?"
acobar Member since:
2005-11-15

freedom of speech does NOT include freedom to incite hatred and violence or threaten others

So, instead of blocking them, the responsible should be prosecuted, charged and face the consequences. Just banning a priori is not a proper response and no business should be allowed to do it. It is the same thing when some business discriminate against a consumer on racist, religious or politics nut basis.

If you want to have use cases rules, they must be known and exposed beforehand so that they can be challenged in court when needed and be used as binding contracts.

As a side note, this (use cases) is what many ISP are using to recuse to provide their goods.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Double standards?
by FlyingJester on Mon 25th Sep 2017 21:22 UTC in reply to "Double standards?"
FlyingJester Member since:
2016-05-11

There's a difference from a web host refusing to host a website (you can get around this legally by hosting it elsewhere, or hosting it yourself), and a government banning a program (it's illegal to get around this).

Reply Score: 6

RE: Double standards?
by avgalen on Tue 26th Sep 2017 14:35 UTC in reply to "Double standards?"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

As others said, there is a difference between
A) 1 company or 1 person refusing to serve you based on criteria that you agreed with while signing up for their product/service/friendship
B) your countries government doing the same for something that isn't illegal.

If you come to my house and start to say things that I don't like I will tell you to leave and you have to leave. Freedom means you can say offensive things to me, it doesn't mean I have to like it or that there will be no consequences!
If you visit a library/cinema with a big "silence" sign hung up by management you will have to be silent otherwise they can remove you
If you sign up for a forum or webhoster that has a "say nice things"-policy you will have to say nice things or you might get kicked of the forum/webhost.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Double standards?
by StephenBeDoper on Tue 26th Sep 2017 20:48 UTC in reply to "Double standards?"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

I don't get it: is censorship good or bad? When China does it, it's bad. When Spain does it, it's bad. But, when some alt right web site gets kicked off the web then it's suddenly right?


Web hosts and domain registrars are not (last I checked) the same thing as the federal governments of sovereign nations, and don't have the same level of power to censor or suppress speech that nations possess. Web hosts & domain registrars are also private entities (excepting some national/CCTLD registries) and in most jurisdictions, they are perfectly within their legal rights to say "This is our sandbox, we make the rules, and you can either follow them or GTFO." That's why, for example, AOL never ran into any free speech-related legal troubles - despite being infamous for having a ridiculously-draconian TOS.

Don't get me wrong: I have no sympathy at all for alt right (and in fact despise them and everything they stand for) but I still think that there is no good censorship. Or, as the EFF (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/08/fighting-neo-nazis-future-free.....) puts it:

"Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one — not the government and not private commercial enterprises— should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t."


I completely agree with the principles espoused in that quote - but I don't think they actually apply to this particular situation. In the case of a commercial hosting provider/registrar booting a customer they don't want to associate with, that is NOT "decid[ing] who gets to speak and who doesn't" - at least not any more so then when, say, a mail server administrator sets up filters to block mail from a persistent source of spam.

Speaking of spam, much of the discourse over this issue frankly reminds me of a proto-meme from NANAE (the news.admin.net-abuse.email): "Frea Speach" - which was a derisive, deliberate misspelling meant to lampoon spammers who argued that bombarding networks/people with unwanted advertisements was somehow protected by free speech laws.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News.admin.net-abuse.email#NANAEisms

Reply Score: 3

RE: Double standards?
by zima on Sat 30th Sep 2017 20:11 UTC in reply to "Double standards?"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Spain?

Reply Score: 2

blackberry
by project_2501 on Mon 25th Sep 2017 20:48 UTC
project_2501
Member since:
2006-03-20

remember when Blackberry simply said yes to all and every government wanting backdoor access?

glad they're gone

let there be a lesson in there for the rest

Reply Score: 6

Comment by sklofur
by sklofur on Mon 25th Sep 2017 21:39 UTC
sklofur
Member since:
2016-03-28

We can safely assume that if iMessage isn't blocked soon, Apple caved, and gave China its backdoor.


I don’t think Apple would do this for the same reason as why they refused to cook up a special iOS version for the police in California. If you weaponise a version of iOS, it can’t just disappear: it will float around forever.

Let’s say Apple was going to put a backdoor in iMessage: it would be publicity suicide to add it to all iOS devices. They might be able to survive with limiting it to chinese devices (albeit not a good look still). In this case, there’d be two problems. People could get around surveillance by bringing a foreign iOS device into china, and you wouldn’t be able to decrypt messages coming in from outside the country.

Personally, I don’t think Apple would ever introduce a backdoor into iMessage given its privacy rhetoric. I think it would rather have iMessage blocked or maybe even threaten to pull out of China (something the Chinese government would not want to happen).

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by sklofur
by feamatar on Mon 25th Sep 2017 22:03 UTC in reply to "Comment by sklofur"
feamatar Member since:
2014-02-25

Actually it would be interesting see what we can get out of this Ouroboros-situation while we can. I still think the Chinese government would bend first if pressured by some shared western company boycott. Maybe 10 years from now the situation will be different, but for now...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by sklofur
by vault on Tue 26th Sep 2017 03:57 UTC in reply to "Comment by sklofur"
vault Member since:
2005-09-15

Apple doesn't need to physically backdoor iPhones to decrypt iMessages. The certificates for all devices are fetched from their servers. All they need to do is introduce a rogue cert and suddenly you're sending messages to additional recepient without even knowing.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by p-OS
by p-OS on Tue 26th Sep 2017 14:20 UTC
p-OS
Member since:
2006-01-19

It's nothing new that China either censors or blocks services. The fact, that WA isn't blocked earlier and iMessage not (yet) at all, might have a simple reason:
Pushing foreign famous companies resp their products outof the market leads to lots of bad publicity while not having any value for the censors. WA in China doesn'tplay a role at all. Most peaple there don't use it...

Reply Score: 2