Why The Government Shouldn't Break WhatsApp

  • Published on: 03 July 2017
  • Encryption backdoors - breaking WhatsApp and iMessage's security to let the government stop Bad Things - sounds like a reasonable idea. Here's why it isn't.

    A transcript of this video's available here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/tom-scott/why-the-government-shouldnt-break-whatsapp/1378434365572557/


    Filmed at the Cambridge Centre for Computing History: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/

    Camera by Tomek: https://www.youtube.com/tomek

    Thanks to everyone who helped proofread my script!


    WhatsApp's privacy protections questioned after terror attack: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39405178

    WhatsApp must be accessible to authorities, says Amber Rudd: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/26/intelligence-services-access-whatsapp-amber-rudd-westminster-attack-encrypted-messaging

    UK government renews calls for WhatsApp backdoor after London attack: https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/27/15070744/encryption-whatsapp-backdoor-uk-london-attacks

    Investigatory Powers Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/25/contents/enacted

    India is 'ready to use' Blackberry message intercept system: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23265091

    Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security

    Councils secretly spied on people walking dogs and feeding birds for five years: http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/26/councils-secretly-spied-on-people-walking-dogs-and-feeding-birds-for-five-years-6345051/
    [This is basically a rephrase of https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/25/british-councils-used-investigatory-powers-ripa-to-secretly-spy-on-public with a better headline]

    Poole council spies on family over school claim: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1584713/Poole-council-spies-on-family-over-school-claim.html

    Security services missed five opportunities to stop the Manchester bomber: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/24/security-services-missed-five-opportunities-stop-manchester/

    Reuters reference to "500 active investigations": http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-security-manchester-plots-idUSKBN18L1H0

    AP: Across US, police officers abuse confidential databases: https://apnews.com/699236946e3140659fff8a2362e16f43/ap-across-us-police-officers-abuse-confidential-databases


    I'm at http://tomscott.com
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    and on Snapchat and Instagram as tomscottgo
  • Runtime : 11:11
  • tom scott tomscott the basics encryption whatsapp imessage public key private key encryption backdoor backdoor end-to-end encryption investigatory powers act computer science


  • Tom Scott
    Tom Scott   2 years ago

    This is the first video from "The Basics", a series of three pilot computer-science videos I'm putting out in the next couple of months. This one's opinionated; one's explanatory; and one demonstrates coding. It's been a while since I've done this sort of thing -- thanks to the folks who helped proofread my scripts!

  • Paŭlo Ebermann
    Paŭlo Ebermann   17 hours ago

    Even if you are not worried about some government doing this, I would be worried about that backdoor enabling also criminals to read the communication. (I guess that depends on the specific type of backdoor, though.)

  • D Shack
    D Shack   2 days ago

    Amazing nuanced articulate presentation of the issues... I loved the clarity of this especially the summary at the end. For some, it might be TLDR but honestly, worth it for all to fully comprehend. Thankyou Tom Scott!

  • Emil Sørensen
    Emil Sørensen   4 days ago

    I'm just gonna say it... The government isn't supposed to know everything illegal you do. It's not supposed to know every time you listen to a concert you didn't pay for, or forget to pick up a piece of litter, or drive a bit too fast because you're late for work.The reason we have laws is to constrain the arbitrary rule of government officials - it's a democratic constraint on the executive branch - and NOT to give them power to judge you at every moment in your life. This is a fact that authoritarian personalities want us all to forget.

    USAGI   5 days ago

    Privacy is just apart personal space and having an invasion of personal space be legally allowed is a.. questionable decision.

  • Joe O Sullivan
    Joe O Sullivan   5 days ago

    What really annoys me is when I sign up to a website or forum, and then I get an email from them, telling me the password I signed up with!

  • Captain Jack Sparrow
    Captain Jack Sparrow   1 weeks ago

    If you have nothing to hide, leave the door open the next time you take a dump.

  • Bigyeti Technologies
    Bigyeti Technologies   1 weeks ago

    The government mandates putting a back door in software, then someone will find that back door and exploit it for nefarious reasons

  • Sharon Zhang
    Sharon Zhang   1 weeks ago

    Came back to see if I could hear the high-pitched noise. I still can, (I'm 11) but it's faint and usually overshadowed by Tom's voice. Plus, I usually watch videos on low volume with captions on, so it's basically indistinguishable. I think some devices may not play high noises as well, because my tablet doesn't play the high noise.

  • Robert
    Robert   1 weeks ago

    Tomi should start asking my Higher Computing Teacher to play your videos to explain Public Keys and Private Keys.

  • J b
    J b   1 weeks ago

    Eek I hope they don’t, my dealer only uses WhatsApp for that exact reason.

  • boiledelephant
    boiledelephant   1 weeks ago

    I can't hear the CRT hiss, but I think it's just because all the electronics in my office generate it too. I think I've finally killed off that frequency for my brain.

  • jamoecw
    jamoecw   1 weeks ago

    get a warrant for the phone itself, problem solved. want to keep it secret? tap the phone itself (spy program on the phone). they just want to be able to target people without having any checks on who they spy on.

  • Hop182
    Hop182   1 weeks ago

    Terrorists used the PlayStation messaging service to communicate back in 2016

  • Lionskyre
    Lionskyre   1 weeks ago

    Obviously this happens in Britain

  • Danish Human Being
    Danish Human Being   2 weeks ago

    Since Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, this video should have been about a different encrypted message app.I prefer Signal, since it's open source, and can be audited by anyone. While only Facebook knows what WhatsApp is actually doing behind the scenes, and knowing Facebook. Well, they definitely got your nudes.

  • bit&
    bit&   2 weeks ago

    Also, everyone has a few things to hide--namely, a certain 16 digit number, a month and year, and the 3 digits on the back

  • ZXZ Demon
    ZXZ Demon   2 weeks ago

    “If you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack, don’t add more hay, get more people looking for the needle”

  • Emil
    Emil   2 weeks ago

    If someone is cool with government spying bc they “have nothing to hide” they’re 1) putting themselves at risk in the long term and 2) throwing everybody else under the bus

  • Jonny Morris
    Jonny Morris   2 weeks ago

    Old equipment?? I still have my ST, it's actually the most secure computer I own!

  • Ryan
    Ryan   2 weeks ago

    I am 100% sure WhatsApp has a app or even hardware level back door (within ARM based chips) that has been in use for years.End to end it maybe, but what's the use when the thing on the other end is no doubt plagued with government backdoors.

  • aby
    aby   2 weeks ago

    I agree.This solution I am suggesting for many years.More police and protection is required not privacy breach.

  • First Name Last Name
    First Name Last Name   2 weeks ago

    im a "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to lose" guy but the problem is that i have many things id rather hide

  • AgeingBoyPsychic
    AgeingBoyPsychic   2 weeks ago

    How to be secure online:1. Download an open source PGP program (duckduckgo will help you)2. Generate a PASSWORD PROTECTED key pair, and send the public key to all your friends (your PGP program will have an option to "Send public key by email").3.Collect the public keys of your friends, your PGP software will save them in a contacts list4. Write any message you want to encrypt in a textile, encrypt with the recipient's key, copy and paste encrypted message to email, WhatsApp etc and don't save the .txt file (or secure delete it)If all that seems like too much trouble, you probably don't really care that much about security....

  • cube kids
    cube kids   2 weeks ago

    I have nothing to hide ... But nothing to show

  • Jovan Weismiller
    Jovan Weismiller   2 weeks ago

    I live in The Donald's US. I'm definitely afraid of my government!

  • David Miller
    David Miller   2 weeks ago

    welp you lost me on this video. Sorry their is a MAJOR difference between a wire tap (a warrant necessary action that allows the law to "listen in" on a conversation) and a back door (an INTENTIONAL hole in software that can be found by anyone that allows them to bypass normal security). I hate the statement "I have nothing to hide". Specifically because it has NOTHING to do with whether or not a government should be able to spy on me or not. Talk about an argument based on no facts.

  • Bill Miller
    Bill Miller   2 weeks ago

    You don't have to break encryption to read the messages... you're typing into an app. No magical encryption backdoor, just an app UI security flaw or maybe an app UI backdoor

  • boB Gudgel
    boB Gudgel   2 weeks ago

    My what a reverberant space you have!

  • John Watson
    John Watson   3 weeks ago

    You're a legend Tom. An absolute legend. Thank you.

  • RadicalErin
    RadicalErin   3 weeks ago

    I absolutely promise you, if they create a back door, it will be hacked before the next DEFCON event. Clipper chip is the best example because it was everything they ever wanted, /and/ it was immediately compromised.And ... now they're requiring people to be searchable at US customs, and our NSA was tapping the German leadership ... How's that for a 2 years later look back?

  • Ezekiel is a Pig
    Ezekiel is a Pig   3 weeks ago

    Government: Ha! We don't uses all this stuff we just stream the raw screen data.

  • dontcheckmychannel
    dontcheckmychannel   4 weeks ago

    I still suspect this is why Brexit was pitched to the peasants. EU law puts a big dampener on that.