FBI vs. Facebook Messenger: What’s at stake?

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Greg Nojeim is director of the Freedom, Security, & Technology Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology. Eric Wenger is the director of Cybersecurity and Privacy Policy at Cisco Systems, Inc. Marc Zwillinger is the founder of ZwillGen PLLC and frequently represents technology companies on surveillance-related issues. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Ars Technica.

In the wake of news from Reuters on Friday that a federal court in California rejected Department of Justice demands that Facebook break, bypass, or remove the encryption in its Messenger app, it’s worth noting how little we still know about such an important dispute.

Depending on what specific relief the government sought from the court, the case may signal a potentially significant threat to the security of Internet-based communications. In a hyperconnected world, the implications of the government’s demand for expanded surveillance capabilities go far beyond any legitimate law enforcement equities in any single case.

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