Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has responded to the suggestion that messaging apps and social networks should remove end-to-end encryption – implying such a move would be a step backwards for governments looking to monitor extremism online.
The executive tackled the issue on Sunday's edition of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. She said that if Facebook-owned WhatsApp was to ditch encryption, which prevents authorities from seeing the messages users are sending to each other, then people would turn to alternative encrypted platforms; leaving governments with even less information as a result.
"The goal for governments is to get as much information as possible, and so when there are message services like WhatsApp that are encrypted the message itself is encrypted but the metadata is not. Meaning that when you send me a message we don't know what that message says but we know that you contacted me," she explained.
Following extremist attacks at London Bridge and nearby Borough Market earlier this year, British prime minister Theresa May accused tech giants of having provided a “safe space” for terrorism to breed. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, meanwhile, said she believed intelligence services should have the ability to get access to encrypted platforms like WhatsApp.
Facebook has stood firm on its belief that protecting private communications is one of its core principles.
"If people move off those encrypted services and go to encrypted services in countries that won't share the metadata the government actually has less information, not more," Sandberg added.
The Facebook lead admitted that as technology continues to evolve there are "complicated conversations" to be had and that her company is working closely with authorities on such issues.
Last month Facebook announced an anti-terror counterspeech programme in the UK. As part of the initiative the company will give anti-terror groups free advertising credits to promote their messages to individuals that might be at risk of radicalisation.
Speaking on the subject, Sandberg said: "Our Facebook policies are very clear. There is absolutely no place for terrorism, hate or calls for violence of any kind. Our goal is to not just pull it off Facebook but to use artificial intelligence technology to get it before it is even uploaded."
"We are working in collaboration with other tech companies now so if a video is uploaded to any of our platforms we are able to fingerprint it for all the others so they can't move from platform to platform," she added.