Consumers Don't Trust Governments to Protect Data or Fight Cybercrime

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Two-thirds (65%) of global consumers believe their government is abusing its powers to access data on them, while a similar number disagree with encryption backdoors, according to new research from Venafi.

The key and certificate management firm polled 3,000 adults in the US, UK and Germany to better understand their views on encryption and government attempts across the globe to undermine it.

Respondents in the US (78%) were most concerned about the government abusing its power to snoop on citizens, versus 59% in the UK and 57% in Germany.

In the UK, the authorities have been granted what many have claimed to be the most sweeping and intrusive surveillance powers of any Western democracy, thanks to the Snoopers’ Charter. Question marks have been raised in the past over whether there are enough safeguards in the law to protect citizens.

In addition, 68% percent of respondents said governments shouldn’t force private companies to hand over encrypted personal data without consumer consent, and 65% said the authorities shouldn’t be able to force citizens to hand over personal data against their will.

However, there’s still a certain amount of confusion over the role encryption plays in a modern society.

Two-fifths of consumers (41%) believe laws that provide government access to encrypted personal data would make them safer from terrorists, despite arguments to the contrary from experts who claim the real criminals will simply move to platforms not covered by such laws.

Just 38% understand that cyber-criminals could benefit from greater government access to encrypted personal data.

Recent leaks of NSA and CIA exploit tools have proven that governments can’t keep secrets, meaning that any encryption backdoors which they could force providers to engineer would eventually fall into the wrong hands.

“The negative impact encryption backdoors will have on every aspect of security and privacy is tremendous,” argued Venafi CEO, Jeff Hudson.

“Giving governments access to encryption will not make us safer from terrorism – in fact, the opposite is true. Most people don’t trust the government to protect data and they don’t believe the government is effective at fighting cybercrime. It’s ironic that we believe we would be safer if governments were given more power to access private encrypted data because this will undermine the security of our entire digital economy.”

The Australia government wants to introduce legislation similar to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, giving its authorities the power to request encryption backdoors. In Germany, meanwhile, reports suggest law enforcers are gearing up to circumvent encryption on services like WhatsApp by hacking individual devices with remote communication interception software (RCIS).

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