De Blasio’s use of encrypted messaging app Signal poses legal questions
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s use of an encrypted messaging app on his private phone poses serious ethical and legal questions, government watchdog groups said Sunday.
The app, Signal, features end-to-end encryption and is “painstakingly engineered to keep your communication safe,” the company’s website boasts.
“We can’t see your messages or your calls, and no one else can either,” the site reads.
The app allows users to set their messages to disappear, deleting them permanently from the public record.
“The big question is does the Signal App follow city and state archiving laws,” said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a good government group that advocates for increased transparency in New York.
“Getting information through the Freedom of Information Law depends on the archiving laws being followed,” he said, “City Hall needs to put out a clear message on how it will comply with the records when using the Signal App.”
Signal isn’t the only encrypted messaging app Hizzoner has loaded on his phone.
Last summer de Blasio tweeted a screenshot of a conversation he had with his son Dante while prepping for a debate. The screen-grab clearly shows the two were texting via WhatsApp, another messaging app known for its end-to-end encryption.
Encrypted messaging apps have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, with Attorney General William Barr going so far as to say that encrypted messaging apps “jeopardize public safety.”
“Converting the internet and communications platforms into a law-free zone, and thus giving criminals the means to operate free of lawful scrutiny will inevitably propel an expansion of criminal activity,” the Attorney General said during a cyber-security conference last June at Fordham Law School.
“From what we see now, it doesn’t appear to us that the app complies with the archiving law unless they do something pro-actively with Signal. They haven’t given an explanation,” said Kaehny. “They’re saying, ‘trust us.’ That’s not good enough.”
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