The revelations come after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the weekend that encryption was posing major challenges to law enforcement in investigations dealing with terrorism, drug trafficking. 'We need to ensure that the internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law,’ he said on broadcaster ABC. ‘The Australian Federal Police must have the powers, as do all our other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, to enforce the law online as well as offline.’
He also said: ‘There is a culture, particularly in the United States, a very libertarian culture which is quite anti-government in the tech sector…Now the reality is, however, that these encrypted messaging applications, voice applications are being used obviously by all of us, but they're also being used by people who seek to do us harm.’
Many messaging products employ end-to-end encryption including WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, Signal and Wickr. Where encryption and decryption keys are stored end user devices rather than on a central server, providers don't have the capability to decrypt content but they can provide metadata around communications between parties including the duration or timing of messages or calls.
However there is come kick back from social media companies. Facebook's Australian office said helps ‘where we can’ but added ‘at the same time, weakening encrypted systems for them [law enforcement] would mean weakening it for everyone’.