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US and UK Request for Government Access to Encrypted Data – Once more

Government officials from Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, UK, and the US signed a letter yesterday outlining the risks of end-to-end encryption and requesting that tech companies have introduced the exits for law enforcement.

The seven mentioned signatories are considering end-to-end encryption. It allows the private transmission of the messages that the governments cannot intercept, for it to be a great danger to the public safety, “including to highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children.”

The letter was signed by the UK Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel, US Attorney General William Barr, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little, Canada Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, and the governments from India and Japan.

The signatories have called on the technology companies to do the following:

  • Create backdoors for companies to view the data that passes through its platforms (such as conversations on messenger apps)
  • Let law enforcement access that data when “necessary and proportionate.”
  • Work with governments to design backdoors.

The letter’s signatories stated that the end-to-end encryption technology that powers the chat apps like Telegram and Signal now makes it difficult for a company to crack down on “serious illegal content and activity on its platform, including child sexual exploitation and abuse, violent crime, terrorist propaganda and attack planning.”

The messenger app Telegram has been outdated several times as the favored app of the terrorist groups like ISIS. It was also cited in the letter that the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children argued in the past October that more than half of the reports of child exploitation would “vanish.”

However, the concerns are not new. The governments have often cited that child abuse and terrorism as the reasons for the increased mass surveillance. Furthermore, several of the signatories are already outlined the risks of end-to-end encryption.

The UK, US, and Australia have said much similar in an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in October. Nonetheless, Facebook, Apple, and other tech companies have still resisted introducing exits in their services.

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