More political headbanging on encryption threatens privacy

The UK’s Home Secretary has yet again cranked up the pressure on messaging giants over use of end-to-end encryption to secure communications sent via popular services like WhatsApp — implying she would prefer tech companies voluntarily re-engineer their security systems so that decrypted data can be handed over to terror-fighting intelligence agencies on demand.

Writing in a paywalled opinion article, published in the Telegraph yesterday, Rudd wheels out the now familiar political refrain that use of e2e encryption is hampering intelligence and law enforcement agencies, before going on to apply such twisted logic it’s hard not to conclude she’s deploying some kind of proprietary crypto of her own, i.e. which scrambles words into incomprehensible nonsense — enabling her to claim to support and value “strong encryption” whilst simultaneously calling for tech giants to work with her to undermine encrypted communications.

“To be very clear — the government supports strong encryption and has no intention of banning end-to-end encryption. But the inability to gain access to encrypted data in specific and targeted instances — even with a warrant signed by a Secretary of State and a senior judge — is right now severely limiting our agencies’ ability to stop terrorist attacks and bring criminals to justice,” she writes, before going on to suggest that:

1) “real people” (whoever they are) aren’t interested in ensuring the privacy of their communications;

2) e2e encryption can be compromised without the need for a backdoor;

Quoth Rudd:

I know some will argue that it’s impossible to have both — that if a system is end-to-end encrypted then it’s impossible ever to access the communication. That might be true in theory. But the reality is different. Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security. So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption or create so called “back doors”.

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