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The dangers of the UKs illogical war on encryption

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The unintended consequences of the web Safety Bill could have a dramatic influence on our capability to communicate securely, including in Ukraine, where it really is needed most


  • Robin Wilton

Published: 05 Aug 2022

In a 21st century war, what goes on online impacts events on the floor. Reliable, secure communication channels in Ukraine have delivered crucial information from President Zelenskyy right to individuals, and allowed him to broadcast attracts the planet and recruit international support.

Secure communication has empowered Ukrainians to combat disinformation, organise relief efforts, and protect evacuees. It has undoubtedly saved lives and guided Ukrainians to safety.

As Western countries support the Ukrainians with defensive and humanitarian aid, they need to also defend Ukrainian citizens capability to communicate safely.

In the united kingdom parliament, Nadine Dorries, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, recently noted: WhatsApp [a secure messaging app] has launched an end-to-end encryption service that the Ukrainian people can usage of discover what is happening within their location on a minute-by-minute, real- time basis and where they are able to get emergency help and support.

When folks have no option but to entrust their communication to third-party services, a few of which might be actively hostile, end-to-end encryption supplies the highest degree of security, because only the sender and receiver have the main element to the messages. Consider their plight if that encrypted service was made to facilitate third-party access.

Astonishingly, even while the united kingdom government praises end-to-end encryption abroad, it really is undermining it in the home. THE WEB Safety Bill, which continues to undergo parliament after being mentioned in the Queens Speech, will target platforms that use end-to-end encryption by placing a duty of care on providers within the scope of the draft bill to moderate illegal and harmful content on the platforms, with fines and penalties for all those that neglect to uphold this duty.

To comply, providers offering end-to-end encrypted services will be forced to weaken, bypass as well as remove encryption, putting the security and privacy of these users at an increased risk.

Then, imagine someone still in Ukraine is wanting to contact family who have managed to get to the united kingdom. Or perhaps a UK citizen is dealing with the aid agencies on the floor. Is their messaging app permitted to have secure communication in Ukraine, but only compromised encryption or none at all in the united kingdom? Its a recipe for chaos.

Encrypted communication must be secure, irrespective of where you are. We can not allow UK function as weak link for the reason that chain.

Exactly the same end-to-end encrypted services are crucial for journalists, who be determined by them to help keep information channels open despite government censorship. Once the BBCs Russian website was blocked, the broadcaster used encryption to circumvent a few of the restrictions and continue publishing through alternative channels.

Supporters of the web Safety Bill will doubtless explain that journalistic content is exempt, that is, frankly, irrelevant. Individual citizens will be able to send proof war crimes, confidentially and securely. The act of sending it will not put their very own safety at an increased risk; nor should platforms and intermediaries be reluctant to mention the data on the foundation that it could be offensive or disturbing.

Its as though the federal government either hasnt considered the cross-border implications of its anti-encryption policy or isnt concerned about the race to underneath it could create.

At the same time when Ukraine needs us to intensify, the united kingdom government is instead on the brink of undermining end-to-end encryption with the web Safety Bill. We have been seeing, beneath the most tragic circumstances, how dangerous it really is whenever a countrys citizens cannot communicate securely and cannot access reliable information safely.

It could be true that, because the saying goes, the initial casualty of war may be the truth but thats no reason to greatly help it die.

Robin Wilton is director of internet trust at the Internet Society

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