The UK government has hired a high-powered ad agency for a full-fledged assault on end-to-end encryption (E2EE).
The UK government has long been opposed to E2EE. Despite the importance of E2EE in virtually every aspect of digital life, critics criticize it for making it harder to catch criminals. Politicians in the US, the UK, and other countries often call for encryption backdoors to be created, seemingly oblivious to the mathematical impossibility of simultaneously having strong encryption that protects government officials, journalists, civil rights activists, and everyday users, while also providing authorities with a backdoor.
According to Rolling Stone, the UK’s latest effort involves an appeal to the public, portraying E2EE as an impediment to protecting children online and preventing child exploitation. This particular argument is one of the most commonly used, since everyone agrees with the importance of protecting children.
Unfortunately, using the ‘protect the children’ argument often results in actions that undermine the safety of the very children it purports to protect. As a result, industry experts are calling the UK’s proposal “scaremongering.”
“The Home Office’s scaremongering campaign is as disingenuous as it is dangerous,” said Robin Wilton, director of Internet Trust at the Internet Society, told Rolling Stone. “Without strong encryption, children are more vulnerable online than ever. Encryption protects personal safety and national security … what the government is proposing puts everyone at risk.”
It seems the Home Office’s immediate target is WhatsApp, and its plans to extend E2EE. Should it succeed in its plans, however, it’s a safe bet E2EE in all its uses, and any platform that uses it, will be the next target.