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5 Feb, 2016 18:47

Facebook blocks messaging encryption service Crypter

Facebook blocks messaging encryption service Crypter

Following publicity from major tech news outlets, Crypter, the encryption service designed to encrypt chat messages, has been blocked by social media giant Facebook.

After Crypter, an app developed by Sussex University student Max Mitchell, was touted by the likes of BGR and TechCrunch earlier this week, Facebook "clocked on" to the encryption service, effectively blocking the tool from use, according to Crypter.

"We will be working extremely hard on another way around, so still download the extension as an update will be pushed out automatically," Crypter's website says. "We at Crypter are really sorry about this."

Crypter invited users to "give us a hand," via GitHub.

A plugin for Firefox and Chrome, according to TechCrunch, Crypter encrypts Facebook messages using a password that the two communicators agree upon. The password is used to encrypt a message on the sender side, creating ciphered text that is sent over Facebook's server, then used to locally decrypt the text on the receiver side.

Crypter's designers said the service was borne of concerns over the vulnerability of private messages from the prying eyes of private companies seeking to sell personal data for use in targeted advertising, and from government snoops that persecute or suppress protest incitement or other democratic speech.

"We had an 'if you can’t beat them, join them' attitude, to designing Crypter. Instead of inviting users to join a brand new chat application we decided to apply it to an already established one – Facebook. And at the same time making sure that we don’t interrupt with our users existing habits."

The move to block Crypter comes even as Facebook has spoken up against government decryption efforts, such as the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK, which would allow security services to hack anyone’s device and access their web history. Facebook is among the many tech-sector voices that have opposed the US government's efforts to weaken encryption security for the benefit of law enforcement.

While the Obama administration said in October that it would not compel tech companies to offer backdoor access, the White House said it would continue its efforts to informally pressure companies to create a way for the government to look at people’s data when they are under investigation. FBI Director James Comey is among the more vocal proponents of government backdoor access to encrypted data.

“The administration has decided not to seek a legislative remedy now, but it makes sense to continue the conversations with industry,” Comey told a Senate committee in October 2015.

recent study found that encryption is not as indestructible as law enforcement in the US has claimed, and that policing agencies still have options in their attempts at thwarting privacy online.

Tech companies, shown to be ultimately complicit in the National Security Agency's global surveillance programs, have maintained a reformist stance regarding US surveillance policies, which they say undermine their products and consumer trust.

Facebook recently released a feature enabling Android users to browse the social media site using Tor’s anonymization methods.