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France Emmanuel Macron Terrorism Presidential election 2017

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Macron calls for legal access to encrypted services in fight against terror

Emmanuel Macron attends a news conference about security issues at his campaign headquarters in Paris on April 10, 2017. Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS

Presidential election front-runner Emmanuel Macron wants the big internet companies to accept the possibility of legal access to encrypted services, such as WhatsApp, in order to fight against terrorism.

The 39-year-old Centrist candidate announced in a press conference on Monday that, in close collaboration with the countries that wish to advance on this subject, France will undertake a big initiative this summer with the internet companies.

“It is essential that these companies accept a system of legal access to encrypted services similar to what currently exists in the telecom sector,” he said, appealing for a “frank discussion with the big names such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and others.”

“The organisations that threaten us are abusing the facilities offered by modern encryption to conceal their projects. They use the highly encrypted, instant messaging services,” he said.

However, he added that the big internet companies have refused to provide their encryption keys or provide access to the content on the grounds of contractual guarantees of protecting their customers’ communication. This situation, according to Macron, was "unacceptable."

He referred to the tug of war between Apple and the US government following the December 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. Apple had refused to help the police to access the encrypted contents of the phone belonging to one of the attackers.

More recently, following the terror attack in London in March, the British home secretary Amber Rudd had urged that services like WhatsApp don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.