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WhatsApp will halt processing of Hong Kong police requests for user data

WhatsApp announced on Monday that it had “paused” its processing of law enforcement requests for user data from Hong Kong, Reuters reported.

In a statement to Reuters, a spokesperson said the pause would be in place “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts.”

The National Security Law in question, which passed in China last week, has already raised alarm from pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. It greatly expands China’s reach and control over the territory, which has operated semiautonomously since 1997, when the British ceded control. One pro-democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong told CNN that the law basically subsumes Hong Kong back into mainland China, with little regard for the democratic processes that the city has in place.

Digital privacy expert Ray Walsh told Digital Trends that WhatsApp’s decision to not cooperate with Hong Kong police over concerns about the National Security Law was a “win for digital privacy.” He called the new security law “invasive.”

“It is great news to see big tech companies like WhatsApp pushing back in favor of democracy and freedom of expression,” Walsh said in an email. “However, for Hong Kong citizens, the danger is that pushback from companies like WhatsApp could lead to complete blackouts of important services in the region.”

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, did not respond to Digital Trend’s request for comment on how long the pause might last, and whether there might be a chance that WhatsApp could end up being banned in Hong Kong. We will update this article when we hear back.

WhatsApp has been banned in mainland China since 2017. Facebook has been at least partially blocked since 2009.

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