Governments Try to Ban Encryption (Yet Again)

Oh, won’t somebody please think of the children?And, yet again, they’re tugging on the “think of the children” strings.

The UK is the latest Five Eyes member to try and ban encryption. Specifically, end-to-end encryption, which stops even the underlying service provider from seeing the data. And how is the UK government arguing its case? Child abuse and CSAM.

Really? This tired old argument again? In today’s SB Blogwatch, we repeat ad nauseam: You can’t make math illegal.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Fireflies.

CSAM: Déjà Vu

What’s the craic? Paul Sandle reports—“Messaging apps oppose UK’s move on encryption”:

Child sexual abuse
Messaging services have united to oppose Britain’s plan to force tech companies to break end-to-end encryption in private messages. … WhatsApp, Signal and five other apps signed an open letter saying the law could give an “unelected official the power to weaken the privacy of billions of people.”

The British government … wants regulator Ofcom to be able to make platforms use accredited technology, or try to develop new technology, to identify child sexual abuse content. … The letter signatories said this was incompatible with end-to-end encryption, which enables a message to be read only by the sender and recipient.

A British government spokesperson said: “We support strong encryption, but this cannot come at the cost of public safety. Tech companies have a moral duty to ensure they are not blinding themselves and law enforcement to … child sexual abuse on their platforms.”

Won’t somebody please think of the children? Hannah Murphy and Jim Pickard make it so—“Encryption ‘blindfolds’ authorities to child abuse, crime agencies claim”:

Could embolden authoritarian regimes
The Virtual Global Taskforce, made up of 15 law enforcement agencies, issued a joint statement saying that plans by Facebook and Instagram-parent Meta to expand the use of end-to-end encryption on its platforms were “a purposeful design choice that degrades safety systems.” [They] warned technology companies … about the need to balance safeguarding children online with protecting users’ privacy.

While the government has argued that there are technological ways to scan messages without undermining the privacy of end-to-end encryption, the companies insisted “this is not possible.” … The UK government’s stance could embolden authoritarian regimes to make similar requests, leaving users vulnerable to surveillance [said] WhatsApp.

WhatsApp said what? The big cheeses from Element, OPTF/Session, Signal, Threema, Viber, WhatsApp and Wire scribbled, “An open letter”:

Dire consequences
As end-to-end-encrypted communication services, we urge the UK Government to address the risks that the Online Safety Bill poses to everyone’s privacy and safety. … The stakes have never been higher.

Around the world, businesses, individuals and governments face persistent threats from online fraud, scams and data theft. Malicious actors and hostile states routinely challenge the security of our critical infrastructure. End-to-end encryption is one of the strongest possible defenses against these threats.

As currently drafted, the Bill … provides no explicit protection for encryption, and … could empower OFCOM to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages. [It] poses an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety and security of every UK citizen and the people with whom they communicate around the world, while emboldening hostile governments. … The United Nations has warned that … efforts to impose backdoor requirements [have] “potentially dire consequences.”

What are they thinking? Are they thinking? Do me afavour:

Time and time again it’s shown that our elected officials have no clue what they’re doing with tech. They simply do not understand the issues at hand. … I’d say we should elect more people with tech knowledge—but who’s going to quit their lucrative software engineering job to run for office, get paid considerably less and achieve little?

Do we even buy the premise? StVitus dances around the subject: [You’re fired—Ed.]

Does anyone really believe that this is about child abuse?

But have you thought of the children? Pascal Monett cuts to the chase:

Invasion of my private life
Look, we know what’s going on now. You’re not thinking of the children. Child abuse is a terrible thing and should rightly be stamped down as soon as it appears, but you do not need the power to invade everyone’s privacy to safeguard the children, and that’s not what you’re fighting for.

You’re fighting for the power to invade anyone’s privacy on whatever pretext suits. … If only … government institutions could do that, it might … be acceptable, but the NSA has amply demonstrated that it will abuse whatever the hell it wants.

And then there’s the whole problem of if the encryption can be intercepted, it will end up being intercepted by the “wrong” people. … I’ll accept this possible invasion of my private life and correspondence if and only if all government officials use the same technology for their top-secret communications.

And it’s not just attacking messaging. So says finagle:

Looking at … this bill, it’s unenforceable nonsense. … This is a stalking horse to attack end to end encryption, including HTTPS, and VPNs.

It reads like a wishlist that will be obsolete by the time it is enacted and will be attacked and subverted. … On top of which they specify it will be enforced by Ofcom, who are utterly useless … being largely staffed by and run for the benefit of the telecoms sector.

But it’ll help protect the children—right? dspillett is somebody who thinks of them:

The age-old glib phrase is in order: If you outlaw end-to-end encryption, only outlaws will have end-to-end encryption. … Saying, “You there! Yes, you—stop doing that,” to remote … anonymous, criminal types has never been effective.

Meanwhile, David 132 calls it “parrot brained”:

Think of the children! Think of the children! Who’s a pretty boy? Squawk!

And Finally:

Now with added Nishimura

Previously in And Finally

You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites … so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Do not stare into laser with remaining eye. E&OE. 30.

Richi Jennings

Richi Jennings is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, and content strategist. A former developer and marketer, he’s also written or edited for Computerworld, Microsoft, Cisco, Micro Focus, HashiCorp, Ferris Research, Osterman Research, Orthogonal Thinking, Native Trust, Elgan Media, Petri, Cyren, Agari, Webroot, HP, HPE, NetApp on Forbes and Bizarrely, his ridiculous work has even won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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