The Home Secretary Goes After Whatsapp End-to-end Encryption

Only a matter of days from Wednesday’s terrorist attack, Amber Rudd MP the UK’s Home Secretary gave an interview on the The Andrew Marr Show during which she said Whatsapp end-to-end encryption is ‘completely unacceptable’ and that the Government need to make sure that organisations like Whatsapp don’t create ‘a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other’.

The Home Secretary goes on to say that the intelligence services should be able to ‘get into’ encrypted whatsapp messages.

This is an evolution and application of the mantra, ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ which has been used to justify ever increasing surveillance by perpetuating the myth that Governments are not watching you and I but the malignant wrongdoers in society. The picture being constantly painted is that Islamist terrorism could be all but eradicated if it wasn’t for Whatsapp and other encrypted messaging providers enabling faceless, unknown terrorists-in-the-making to secretly synchronise, plan and communicate with their extended networks. This argument is nonsense.

As demonstrated when Kahlid Masood was named as the person behind Wednesday’s terror attack, attacks are rarely committed by those with no history of involvement with the authorities. Masood had a number of previous convictions for violence and was investigated previously by MI5. According to research conducted by the Henry Jackson Society, three-quarters of Islamist-related offences are committed by those previously known to the authorities with 48% of offenders already known to the security services.

The government should be looking at the role UK prisons play in radicalisation and exploring ways to reach young males vulnerable to the messages sent out by the terrorist group Daesh, rather than embarking on a dangerous project of weakening encryption. If tech companies are forced to engineer backdoors and permit the security services to exploit them, we could never be confident in the security of our data regarding the most sensitive and private parts of our lives.

What do you think? Should tech companies be forced to allow security services access to messages? Have your say below.

About Rob McDowall (@robmcd85)

Chair of Welfare Scotland, Member of the Equality Council, EUCCTI Rapporteur and Equality and Human Rights Advocate. Global Pride Power List of 2016 and regularly included in the RISE LGBT Advocates Powerlist. Gay, Social Democrat, occasional meat-eating supporter of Scottish Independence.

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