An instant messaging application called Line has introduced an end-to-end encryption feature known as Letter Sealing on smartphones and desktops amid increased law enforcement concerns that encryption is aiding terrorism.
The feature, which is available for iOS and Android in Line version 5.3.0, uses a protocol similar to WhatsApp and iMessage that scrambles the content of messages with a key stored on the user's device rather than a company server.
Line offers a range of applications, including free video calls and instant messaging, and claimed the end-to-end encryption makes it "technically impossible" for chat content to be disclosed to a third party. Line claims to have over 560 million registered users.
Android users of the application with one smartphone device will have the feature switched on as default, and encryption for multiple device profiles will roll out in the near future.
The news comes as law enforcement is becoming increasingly hostile to end-to-end encryption on smartphones.
FBI director James Comey had said that encryption and social media are now being exploited by terrorists to hide communications and that these applications make it difficult for the agency to combat sophisticated cyber threats.
"This real and growing gap, to which the FBI refers as ‘Going Dark', is an area of continuing focus for the FBI. We believe it must be addressed given that the resulting risks are grave in traditional criminal matters as well as in national security matters," he said during a Senate judiciary committee meeting in Washington DC.
Andrew Parker, general director of MI5, has also warned that end-to-end encryption poses a risk to the UK.
"We've been pretty successful at that in recent years but it's becoming more difficult as technology changes faster and faster and encryption comes in," he said.
"MI5 and others need to be able to navigate the internet to find terrorists' communications. We need to be able to use datasets so we can join the dots to be able to find and stop the terrorists who mean us harm."
However, not everyone believes that less encryption is the answer. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales criticised UK prime minister David Cameron for comments suggesting the government will seek to limit the use of encrypted messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp.
"It is not feasible in any sense of the word for the UK to ban end-to-end encryption. It's a completely moronic and stupid thing to do. We all have a very strong interest in a safe and secure internet," he said.
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