Five Eyes Repeat Encryption Backdoor Calls

The Western Five Eyes powers have issued yet another joint statement effectively calling for tech firms to engineer backdoors into end-to-end and device encryption.

The post-war intelligence alliance of the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada was joined by India and Japan in issuing the new missive — the latest of many calls to engage with governments on the issue.

The arguments put forward were the same as always: a few lines in support of encryption’s role in protecting data, privacy, and IP, followed by many more decrying the fact that it can also enable violent criminals, terrorists and child abusers to stay hidden online from investigators.

As they did last year, the Five Eyes nations called on tech firms like Apple and Facebook to find a way to accede to law enforcement requests for access to encrypted data on suspects. As it stands, they can do neither this nor police their own platforms for content that violates terms of service, the governments argued.

“We reiterate that data protection, respect for privacy and the importance of encryption as technology changes and global internet standards are developed remain at the forefront of each state’s legal framework,” concluded the statement. 

“However, we challenge the assertion that public safety cannot be protected without compromising privacy or cybersecurity. We strongly believe that approaches protecting each of these important values are possible and strive to work with industry to collaborate on mutually agreeable solutions.”

The problem with these demands is that they are just not technically feasible, according to the technology community. It would require firms to effectively engineer backdoors into services which, they claim, will eventually reach the criminal underground and be abused to undermine security and privacy for hundreds of millions of global users.

A couple of years ago, the world’s leading cryptography experts signed an open letter asking FBI boss Christopher Wray to explain how tech firms could accede to these government demands without degrading security for all users.

The official response to such arguments, as per the latest Five Eyes statement, is that the tech community isn’t trying hard enough to find a way forward and that it can be done, although with no information on exactly how.

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