WhatsApp has announced that it will not hand over any user data to Hong Kong authorities when sent official demands to do so, at least for the time being.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the announcement comes after China introduced its new national security law which bans Hong Kong residents from criticizing the Chinese government both online and in person.
During last year’s protests, many Hong Kong residents turned to encrypted messaging services as a way to communicate and organize. However, now that China’s national security law has been passed, many fear that Chinese authorities could try and force companies to give them access to users’ private messages.
In fact, some users were so concerned that they went ahead and deleted their accounts outright ahead of the law being passed.
WhatsApp was the first company to announce that it would suspend processing requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement agencies after China’s national security law went into effect. This was later followed by a statement from its parent company Facebook in which a spokesperson said it would also follow suit, saying:
“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”
So far, WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram and Twitter have all issued statements saying that they would pause all data and information requests from Hong Kong authorities. While good news for Hong Kong residents, this will put all of the aforementioned companies into conflict with the Chinese government which could end up deciding to ban all of these services from being used in the city going forward.
Apple’s Messages and FaceTime also use end-to-end encryption and at the time of writing it is still unclear as to whether or not the iPhone maker will take a similar stance regarding China’s national security law.
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