Encryption App Gains Popularity Amid Apple Privacy Battle
By Steve Rosenbush for WSJ
The battle between Apple Inc. and the FBI over an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists could be meaningful to that particular investigation. Perhaps, if the FBI wins, and Apple unencrypts the phone, important information will be extracted from the device. Yet such a victory simply may encourage more people to use encryption apps that device makers didn’t create and have no particular ability to crack.
Here’s a case in point. An encrypted messaging app called Telegram has 100 million users and is gaining 350,000 users every day, according to its founder, Verge reports. The app was created by entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who created Russian social network VKontakte before he was forced to leave the country. “Telegram’s focus has long been on privacy, and its founders have said they have little interest in profit. The app uses end-to-end encryption to protect communications from eavesdroppers, though it has come under criticism from those who say the service has enabled terrorists to securely communicate with one another,” Verge says. “Although Telegram has remained committed to its privacy controls, the company has begun cracking down on public channels used to promote pornography or terrorist-related material.”
Mr. Durov, who sides with Apple CEO Tim Cook in the FBI debate, isn’t alone. Encryption apps such as Signal are part of Edward Snowden’s privacy-enhancing measures, which he has shared with The Intercept, as The Morning Download noted in November. The battle over encryption is far larger than the Apple-FBI dispute, and encryption isn’t going away. Even if such apps were outlawed, they still would be available on the Dark Web, more or less beyond the reach of law enforcement.