Technology companies should no longer be able to provide encrypted messaging services that cannot be accessed in emergencies by the security services, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, said on Sunday.
Speaking after it emerged that the police were investigating reports that Khalid Masood had used the encrypted WhatsApp service just before he launched the attack in Westminister, in which he killed four people, Rudd said it was “completely unacceptable” that the police and security services were shut out from messages of this kind.
She also signalled a renewed determination to stop internet companies publishing extremist material online by declaring that they now had to accept they were “publishing companies”, with the responsibilities that went with that, not just technology firms providing a platform.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Rudd refused to rule out passing new legislation to tackle encrypted messaging and the posting of extremist material online, although she stressed her desire to persuade the internet and social media companies to cooperate voluntarily with the government on these issues.
The home secretary also said she would be holding talks with firms this week “to ask them to work with us” on these matters.