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Updated – Do politicians want to ban encryption?

Read the full article or follow the link to our update. Read update

Senior British and US politicians are worried about end-to-end encryption.  But not because the applications which use it are insecure.  The very opposite in fact.

Politicians are concerned encrypted messaging systems are too efficient.  They believe encryption of services such as WhatsApp is making the pursuit of criminals more difficult.  They also claim tech companies should do more to help governments monitor undesirables.

What are they saying?

The whole debate, or whinge, depending on how you look at it, has been bubbling for a couple of months.

Rod Rosenstein, the US deputy attorney general, has fanned the flames.  Encrypted services clearly frustrate him.

woman using encrypted messenger service

In comments reported by the BBC he said: “Increasingly, the tools we use to collect evidence run up against encryption tools which are designed to defeat them”.

He also spoke about tech firms not cooperating with government.  He also revealed the United States are liaising with other governments to find a solution to the issue.

Rosenstein’s comments follow a similar rant by Home Secretary Amber Rudd.  She claimed tech companies weren’t doing enough to combat extremism.  She also said encrypted messaging services are ‘a problem’ and that ‘legislation is always an alternative’.

Hang on a minute

But aren’t the political bigwigs missing the point here?  I would imagine 99.99% of people using encrypted services don’t want the government to be able to read their messages.

Not because they are criminals, terrorists or hell-bent on world domination.  But because they are ordinary citizens who, rightly, believe they are entitled to privacy.  And not to be monitored by Big Brother any more than they already are.

Yes, it’s easy to see the government’s point of view.  Terrorists and hard core criminals are using encrypted message services.  And yes they must be stopped.

The question is how.

Blanket access to encrypted messaging services isn’t the answer.  Not if we are putting any value on personal privacy and liberty.

And another thing.  Call me Mr Conspiracy Theory if you like.  But I can’t believe the spies at GCHQ aren’t able to crack a suspect’s WhatsApp account if they really need to.

What do you think?  Are governments entitled to easier access to end-to-end encrypted messenger services?  Are the tech companies right to be digging their heels in?  How do you feel about your messages being read by government officials?

Update October 24

 

In another twist to the encryption saga the FBI have been bemoaning their inability to crack mobile devices.  The law enforcement agency say they have been unable to extract data from over 7,000 smartphones.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has called encrypted devices a huge problem.  Speaking at a conference of police officials in Philadelphia he said: “It (encryption) impacts investigations across the board—narcotics, human trafficking, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation.”

The issue here of course is that the public want encrypted devices.  But government agencies want the ability to see the data criminal and terrorist suspects have on their phones.

It’s a dilemma Wray acknowledges.  He said: “I get it.  There’s a balance to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving us the tools we need to keep the public safe.”

Essentially the FBI and other agencies around the world want tech companies to create a backdoor into their products.  This is something tech manufacturers don’t want to do.  Apple have said such a backdoor would be ‘dangerous.’

Arguably it would also be a waste of time.  Even if such a backdoor existed software installed on the device would be able to encrypt the data.  It seems encryption will continue to frustrate law enforcement.

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Craig Ellyard

Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling.

5 comments

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  1. Anonymous 18 October, 2017 at 09:40

    Politicians and governments do not know how encrytion works let alone understand its application to communications.
    The service providers have no idea what the encrytion keys are with end encryption thats whole point. It cannot be banned as the devices at each end initialise it not the data carrier and if the key is changed more often than the time required to crack it eaves dropping is damn near impossible
    Its here to stay

  2. Ron Hagley 26 October, 2017 at 09:38

    I understand Government desires to monitor criminal communications BUT don’t see why they should see stuff between innocent people. There are many occasions when an innocent individual may need guaranteed privacy and I personnally don’t trust monolithic government institutions to handle my data sensitively and in a trustworthy manner. There have been instances of data leaks from goverment employees in the past and there is no doubt it could happen again.
    The there is the issue of web security, the whole concept of online business is at risk if encryption were to be removed.
    One major issue is that many of us just do not trust Goverment bodies to behave responsibly and that does not even start to consider the actions of individual governent employees.

  3. Beefhooked 26 October, 2017 at 15:48

    Before the internet the terrorist and criminals used a thing call post and codes so unless the governments read every letter and broke every code the only differance is in speed of commuication.
    It may just be that governments do not like the fact that they cannot control tech that is the problem because without that control people think for them selves which no government wants because if they make a mistake it can travel faster than they can hide it .Just a thought .

  4. Carl 16 November, 2017 at 13:32

    No body has any right to read my email, letters whatever. End of. All the government want is total control of the people. Freedom of speech and privacy are a birth right. Just look at our society now its being herded like the sheeple we are, we need to wake up

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