WhatsApp messages may have gotten 16 people detained in a terrorism-related investigation


Belgian special forces

Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Officers of the Belgian Special Police patrol around the perimeter of the hotel of U.S. President Barack Obama in Brussels.

Belgian police have detained 16 alleged terrorists with ties to Chechen rebels in a series of raids after receiving information gleaned from WhatsApp messages that US law enforcement passed to Beligan authorities, ABC News reports.


The Associated Press reports that several of the suspects have already been released due to lack of evidence, and it's not clear whether law enforcement in either country actually read the WhatsApp messages themselves.

It's still interesting to note that US authorities reportedly helped Belgian law enforcement get its hands on the messages.

WhatsApp - an instant-messaging service for smartphones - uses end-to-end encryption, a technology designed to keep messaging private even from the service.

The arrests come as the debate over encryption has heated up in Washington, DC. The FBI is particularly upset as major tech companies have begun to embrace end-to-end encryption, which prevents law enforcement and even the messaging hosts themselves from peeking into private information. The agency has called for a virtual backdoor that would allow law enforcement agencies to access encrypted information if they have a warrant.


The raids were part of a Belgian anti-terrorist campaign aimed at thwarting potential threats from plotters with ties to various extremists groups, as Bloomberg reports.

Neither WhatsApp nor the FBI responded to Business Insider's request for comment.

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