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Five Eyes Talk Tough on Encryption Backdoors

The Five Eyes allies have threatened to introduce legislation if technology providers don’t help them to break end-to-end encryption in specific cases where private info is sought on suspects.

The five-country partnership of the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand met in Australia last week with homeland security, public safety and immigration ministers and attorneys-general in attendance.

The joint statements released following its conclusion ratcheted up the hyperbole on a subject where law enforcers and intelligence agencies on one side and technologists on the other are in deadlock.

“The increasing gap between the ability of law enforcement to lawfully access data and their ability to acquire and use the content of that data is a pressing international concern that requires urgent, sustained attention and informed discussion on the complexity of the issues and interests at stake,” it said. “Otherwise, court decisions about legitimate access to data are increasingly rendered meaningless, threatening to undermine the systems of justice established in our democratic nations.”

Governments want tech providers like Apple, Facebook and others to provide “lawful access solutions” to their products so they can request private info in cases where “a court or independent authority has authorized such access based on established legal standards.”

However, as leading encryption specialists have said time and again, such solutions cannot be engineered without undermining security of such services for hundreds of millions of law abiding users and businesses.

They have even written to FBI boss Christopher Wray demanding to know how it could be done.

Now the Five Eyes allies look like they’re getting close to forcing the hand of Silicon Valley.

“Should governments continue to encounter impediments to lawful access to information necessary to aid the protection of the citizens of our countries, we may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions,” the statement warned.

One alternative mooted in Germany is to allow police to hack suspects’ devices directly, thus bypassing the need for encryption backdoors.

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