US joins six countries in new call for backdoor encryption access

On Monday, the US Department of Justice signed on to a new international statement warning of the dangers of encryption and calling for an industry-wide effort to enable law enforcement agencies to access encrypted data once a warrant has been obtained. The US was joined in the effort by officials representing the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and Japan.

The statement begins by acknowledging the value of encryption in protecting free expression across the world, citing a 2017 report from the UN Human Rights Commission. But the statement quickly pivots to the ostensible problems posed by the technology.

“Particular implementations of encryption technology, however, pose significant challenges to public safety,” the statement reads. “We urge the industry to address our serious concerns where encryption is applied in a way that wholly precludes any legal access to content.”

The Justice Department has a long history of anti-encryption advocacy. In 2018, five of the seven participating countries expressed similar misgivings in an open memo to tech companies, although the memo resulted in little to no progress on the issue from the industry. At each turn, tech companies have insisted that any backdoor built for law enforcement would inevitably be targeted by criminals, and ultimately leave users less safe.

Crucially, the seven countries would not only seek to acces encrypted data in transit — such as the end-to-end encryption used by WhatsApp — but also locally stored data like the contents of a phone. That local encryption was at the center of the 2016 San Bernardino encryption fight, which saw the FBI taking Apple to court in an effort to access the contents of a phone linked to a workplace shooting.

“While this statement focuses on the challenges posed by end-to-end encryption, that commitment applies across the range of encrypted services available,

U.S., UK and other countries warn tech firms that encryption creates ‘severe risks’ to public safety

  • Lawmakers from countries within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have urged tech firms to develop backdoors that allows them to access encrypted messages.
  • In an open statement, seven nations said that unbreakable encryption technology “creates severe risks to public safety.”
  • While citizens benefit from additional privacy, law enforcement agencies see end-to-end encryption as a barrier to their investigations.



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LONDON — Lawmakers from countries within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have warned tech firms that unbreakable encryption technology “creates severe risks to public safety.”

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Ministers from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand published a statement Sunday calling on the tech industry to develop a solution that enabled law enforcement to access tightly encrypted messages.

“We urge industry to address our serious concerns where encryption is applied in a way that wholly precludes any legal access to content,” the statement, which was signed by U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, said.

The statement, published on the website of the U.S. Department of Justice, was also signed by India and Japan, which are not part of the Five Eyes alliance.

Technology companies like Apple and Facebook encrypt user’s communications “end-to-end,” meaning that only users can access their own messages. It applies to written messages, as well as audio and video communications.

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While citizens benefit from additional privacy, law enforcement agencies see end-to-end encryption as a barrier to their investigations and have been calling on tech companies to introduce backdoors that would give law enforcement agencies access.

“We call on technology companies to work with governments … on reasonable, technically feasible solutions,”

Five Eyes governments, India, and Japan make new call for encryption backdoors

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Members of the intelligence-sharing alliance Five Eyes, along with government representatives for Japan and India, have published a statement over the weekend calling on tech companies to come up with a solution for law enforcement to access end-to-end encrypted communications.

The statement is the alliance’s latest effort to get tech companies to agree to encryption backdoors.

The Five Eyes alliance, comprised of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, have made similar calls to tech giants in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Just like before, government officials claim tech companies have put themselves in a corner by incorporating end-to-end encryption (E2EE) into their products.

If properly implemented, E2EE lets users have secure conversations — may them be chat, audio, or video — without sharing the encryption key with the tech companies.

Representatives from the seven governments argue that the way E2EE encryption is currently supported on today’s major tech platforms prohibits law enforcement from investigating crime rings, but also the tech platforms themselves from enforcing their own terms of service.

Signatories argue that “particular implementations of encryption technology” are currently posing challenges to law enforcement investigations, as the tech platforms themselves can’t access some communications and provide needed data to investigators.

This, in turn, allows a safe haven for criminal activity and puts the safety of “highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children” in danger, officials argued.

“We call on technology companies to work with governments to take the following steps, focused on reasonable, technically feasible solutions,” the

7 Countries Tell Facebook To Break Encryption

The governments of seven countries are calling on Facebook and other tech firms to do the technically impossible – to weaken encryption by giving law enforcement access to messages, whilst not reducing user safety.

The governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan have issued the joint statement which pleads with Facebook specifically, as well as other tech firms, to drop “end-to-end encryption policies which erode the public’s safety online”.

The governments once again raise the issue of child abusers and terrorists using encrypted services such as WhatsApp to send messages without fear of content being intercepted.

“We owe it to all of our citizens, especially our children, to ensure their safety by continuing to unmask sexual predators and terrorists operating online,” the U.K.’s home secretary, Priti Patel, said in a statement.

“It is essential that tech companies do not turn a blind eye to this problem and hamper their, as well as law enforcement’s, ability to tackle these sickening criminal acts. Our countries urge all tech companies to work with us to find a solution that puts the public’s safety first.”

Encryption muddle

Once again, the politicians seem unable to grasp one of the fundamental concepts of end-to-end encryption – that putting back doors into the encryption algorithms that allow security services to intercept messages effectively breaks the encryption.

According to the U.K. government’s statement, the “seven signatories of the international statement have made it clear that when end-to-end encryption is applied with no access to content, it severely undermines the ability of companies to take action against illegal activity on their own platforms”.

Yet, end-to-encryption with the ability for third parties to intercept content is not end-to-end encryption in any meaningful sense. Worse, by introducing back