The United Kingdom’s quest to ban strong encryption, and reduce the privacy rights of internet users, has gotten so extreme that it could even result in popular apps like Whatsapp being banned in the country. James Comey, FBI Director, and David Cameron, the British Prime Minister have encouraged tech companies to end the use of end-to-end encryption despite the technology being key to protecting users from hackers and widely used in popular consumer products like Whatsapp. According to a group of leading computer experts, the government efforts to weaken online security are causing “extreme economic harm” and are frankly “unworkable”.
In response to the proposals the world’s most prominent computing experts argue that lessening security “will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend.” Tech companies argue that leaving vulnerabilities in for surveillance agencies is risky as others will take advantage and exploit the weaknesses too.
A group of noted computer scientists wrote a 26-page report entitled “Keys Under Doormats.” The title is a mockery of the vulnerability they feel the new legislation will cause. In the report, they argue that the challenge is “even greater today than it would have been 20 years ago”. Another report helped to prevent the passing of similar legislation in the past.
Publishers of the report argue that any legislation that seeks to alter online security should be “approached with caution”. They also argue that deliberately inserting or leaving a vulnerability inside popular software could yield unintended and unpredictable consequences due to the interconnectedness of today’s technology.
Prominent figures of several tech companies are beginning to weigh in on the issue. Tim Cook, current CEO of Apple, is a strong supporter of people’s right to privacy online and strong encryption. Facebook commented that the decision to weaken encryption could result in a host of different security problems. This proves to be a critical decision with regards to people’s’ online privacy and the protection of their information and is yet another example of ‘lazy policing’, where law enforcement seeks legal end-arounds to laws, regulations and procedures that make policing more challenging yet serve a vital purpose.