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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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).

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