Why WhatsApp wanted to leave the Netherlands

Meta was about to take WhatsApp offline in the Netherlands, but that fell through. What happened?

WhatsApp is by far the most popular chat service on the planet; this also applies to the Netherlands. But recently there was a scenario in which the service would leave our country. Yes, Meta threatened to take the chat service offline in the Netherlands if a new law was introduced.

WhatsApp wanted to leave the Netherlands

That had everything to do with a possible amendment to the Telecom Act, NRC reports. Under the rule of Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus, an attempt was made to make WhatsApp eavesdropping for the secret services. A ‘back door’ in the service would bypass end-to-end encryption and leave criminals vulnerable.

Parent company Meta, on the other hand, was not waiting for that at all. Documents from NRC show that the chat service therefore spoke very clear language. ‘If WhatsApp has to get a so-called back door in the Netherlands, then we’ll just leave.’ (or something like that).

What’s the problem?

But why is that back door so controversial? Don’t we all want to catch criminals? Well, yes, but at all costs, Meta suggests. See, WhatsApp, like most chat services, is end-to-end encrypted, meaning that only the sender and receiver of a message can read the content.

Not Meta, not WhatsApp itself, not even an almighty secret service can see messages between two people. And that involves a back door; a way to bypass that encryption so that people can listen in where necessary.

This proved to be the major problem, both morally and technically. The backdoor would weaken the entire WhatsApp infrastructure. In addition, it is of course not a pleasant thought that you can just be spied on via an apparently safe chat service.

In the end, the law fell through because everyone except Grapperhaus had doubts about the plans. And that is why we still have WhatsApp in the Netherlands today.

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