Leaked documents say UK government could ban encryption


The UK government could soon force technology firms including Vodafone and O2 to spy on your online activity.

A draft document has been leaked which details the government’s plans to force technology firms to build backdoors into their products.

If the plans go forward, it would effectively ban encryption – an important security feature used to protect people’s private data from hackers.

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The UK government could soon force technology firms including Vodafone and O2 to spy on your online activity (stock image)

The UK government could soon force technology firms including Vodafone and O2 to spy on your online activity (stock image)

The UK government could soon force technology firms including Vodafone and O2 to spy on your online activity (stock image)

WHAT IS END-TO-END ENCRYPTION? 

End-to-end encryption scrambles digital messages as they are sent from one device and can only be unscrambled correctly by the intended recipient with a shared key.

It helps to hide personal data, including financial information, from hackers and cyber criminals.

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage are among the services which use encryption by default, while others such as Google Allo make it optional.

While the contents remain secret, metadata about the interaction can provide investigators with some other useful clues such as when a message was written, the number of the person it went to, as well as the location of the sender and recipient when the message was sent / received.

The document was leaked by the Open Rights Group, and details some extreme proposals.

One of the proposals in the document reads: ‘To provide and maintain the capability to carry out the interception of communications or the obtaining of secondary data and disclose anything obtained under the warrant to the person to whom the warrant was addressed, or any person acting on that person’s behalf, within one working day, or such longer period as may be specified in the technical capability notice, of the telecommunications operator being informed that the warrant has been issued.’

Another states: ‘To provide and maintain the capability to disclose, where practicable, the content of communications or secondary data in an intelligible form.’

If the proposals are accepted, this would effectively ban encryption.

In March, Amber Rudd caused uproar when she called for WhatsApp to allow the government to read encrypted messages, following the terrorist attack at Westminster.

End-to-end encryption scrambles messages as they are sent from one device and can only be unscrambled correctly by the intended recipient with a shared key.

It helps to hide personal data including financial information, from hackers and cyber criminals.

WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger are among the services which use this process by default, but others such as Telegram and Google Allo make it optional.

If the plans go forward, it would effectively ban encryption – an important security feature used to protect people's private data from hackers. Pictured is a messge on WhatsApp explaining that it uses end-to-end encryption

If the plans go forward, it would effectively ban encryption – an important security feature used to protect people's private data from hackers. Pictured is a messge on WhatsApp explaining that it uses end-to-end encryption

If the plans go forward, it would effectively ban encryption – an important security feature used to protect people’s private data from hackers. Pictured is a messge on WhatsApp explaining that it uses end-to-end encryption

While the proposal will need to be approved, The Indepenedent reports that it is currently being discussed with members of the UK’s Technical Advisory board.

This includes BSkyB, BT, Cable and Wireless, O2, Virgin Media and Vodafone, as well as representatives from government agencies, believed to include GCHQ and MI5.

The four-week consultation ends on 19 May. 

Jocelyn Paulley, Director at the international law firm Gowling WLG, said: ‘Balancing protection of fundamental human rights such as privacy, and the public interest in national security will always be a highly contentious area. 

In March, Amber Rudd caused uproar when she called for WhatsApp to allow the government to read encrypted messages, following the terrorist attack at Westminster 

In March, Amber Rudd caused uproar when she called for WhatsApp to allow the government to read encrypted messages, following the terrorist attack at Westminster 

In March, Amber Rudd caused uproar when she called for WhatsApp to allow the government to read encrypted messages, following the terrorist attack at Westminster 

‘At some point, the authorities need to be able to undertake privacy intrusive measures in the interest of prevention of crime and that has always been the case. 

‘The advance of technology means that it is now easier for individuals to use highly secure systems, and easier for the authorities to maintain more powerful surveillance over greater proportions of communications and the population. 

‘But what should not be changing, unless we are under greater threat, is the point at which the authorities can break the right to privacy, regardless of the technology in question.’

 

 



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