In the post-Snowden world, encryption has become a major focus for technology companies, especially the ones that handle a lot of personal information. This is done not only to protect the data of their users from hackers and other malicious third-parties, but from spying by government agencies as well and, while the effectiveness of many of these encryptions is debatable, it’s very clear that governments across the world aren’t very fond of this trend.
Apparently, the current British government is particularly disapproving of this trend, as Prime Minister David Cameron, in a message that he delivered on Monday, made it clear that he intends to try and push legislation that would ban encrypted messaging services in the United Kingdom unless British intelligence agencies were given direct access to the encrypted information. He cited the recent attacks in Paris as a major inspiration for this new move.
“In extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call, to mobile communications,” said the Prime Minister, as quoted by the Guardian. “The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not. The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe.”
These comments are part of the rapidly growing debate in Europe and North America about whether or not Internet companies and telecommunications providers must fully cooperate with government agencies in regards to sharing the information of their users. It’s the age-old battle of freedom vs safety: is it worth sacrificing our privacy for what governments claim are invaluable tools in the fight against terrorism and other crimes? Many people don’t think so.
“Cameron’s plans appear dangerous, ill-thought out and scary,” said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group, once again quoted by the Guardian. “Having the power to undermine encryption will have consequences for everyone’s personal security. It could affect not only our personal communications but also the security of sensitive information such as bank records, making us all more vulnerable to criminal attacks.”