Nevada Attorney General seeks restraining order against Meta’s messenger encryption

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford seeks a restraining order against Meta’s Messenger, alleging its end-to-end encryption endangers children and hampers law enforcement efforts. The motion aims to disable encryption for users under 18, citing potential risks and delays in criminal investigations.

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Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has requested a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent minors from accessing encrypted communication on Meta’s Messenger app. This follows Ford’s announcement of civil lawsuits against five social media companies, including Meta, accusing them of deceptively marketing services to youth through addictive algorithms. The TRO motion claims Meta’s end-to-end encryption in Messenger endangers children, hinders law enforcement, and violates the Nevada Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Essentially, the State of Nevada seeks a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prohibit Meta from using end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on Messenger for users under 18, claiming it aids child predators and hampers law enforcement against online crimes. Meta implemented E2EE in December 2023, but the TRO motion argues it delays law enforcement efforts and risks evidence spoliation. If granted, the injunction would require Meta to disable E2EE for young Messenger users in Nevada.

Georgetown University professor Matt Blaze, known for finding flaws in the Clipper Chip in 1994, suggests the objection to Meta’s encryption isn’t about hindering real-time interception but rather the lack of a permanent third-party record for future law enforcement convenience. Riana Pfefferkorn, from the Stanford Internet Observatory, told the Register that prohibiting Nevada children from end-to-end encryption (E2EE) would undermine their safety, providing less digital privacy and cybersecurity.

Pfefferkorn added that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general, including California’s, consider inadequate digital privacy and security a consumer protection violation. Strong encryption is seen as the standard for ensuring user protection. Therefore, the Nevada attorney general’s argument that Meta violates consumer protection laws by providing end-to-end encryption appears contradictory to established standards and practices.