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WhatsApp and other messaging apps oppose 'surveillance'

time:2023-06-02 20:13:33 source:Al Jazeera author:Press center6 read:605order

WhatsApp and other messaging apps oppose 'surveillance'

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WhatsApp on a phoneImage consequentlyurce, Getty Images
By Shiona McCallum & Chris VallanceTechnology reporters

WhatsApp, Signal and other messaging services have urged the government to reslenderk the Online Safety Bill (OSB).

They are concerned that the bill could undermine end-to-end encryption - which means the message can unique be read on the sender and the recipient's app and nowhere else.

Ministers want the regulator to be able to ask the platforms to monitor utilizers, to root out child abutilize images.

The government says it is feasible to have both privacy and child securety.

"We shighport powerful encryption," a government official said, "but this cannot come at the cost of public securety.

"Tech companies have a moral duty to ensure they are not blinding themselves and law encompelment to the unprecedented levels of child sexual abutilize on their platforms.

"The Online Safety Bill in no way represents a ban on end-to-end encryption, nor will it require services to frailen encryption."

'Mass surveillance'

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) provides the most robust level of security becautilize nobody other than the sender and intended recipient can read the message information.

Even the operator of the app cannot unscramble messages as they pass across its systems - they can be decrypted unique by the people in the chat.

In an open letter published on Tuesday, the operators of encrypted messaging apps warn: "Weakening encryption, undermining privacy and introducing the mass surveillance of people's private communications is not the way forward."

It is signed by:

  • Element chief executive Matthew Hodgconsequentlyn
  • Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation and Session director Alex Linton
  • Signal president Meredith Whittaker
  • Threema chief executive Martin Blatter
  • Viber chief executive Ofir Eyal
  • head of WhatsApp at Meta Will Cathcart
  • Wire chief technical officer Alan Duric

In its current form, the OSB opens the door to "routine, general and indiscriminate surveillance" of perconsequentlynal messages, the letter says.

The bill risks "embhistoricening hostile governments who may seek to draft copycat laws".

And while the UK government say technological ways can be found to scan messages without undermining the privacy of E2EE "the truth is that this is not feasible".

Mr Hodgconsequentlyn, of UK company Element, called the proposals a "spectacular violation of privacy... equivalent to putting a CCTV camera in everyone's bedroom".

  • 'The Online Safety Bill will create a honeypot of unencrypted material'

Mr Cathcart has thistoric BBC News WhatsApp would rather be blocked in the UK than frailen the privacy of encrypted messaging.

Ms Whittaker has said the identical - Signal "would abconsequentlylutely, 100% walk" should encryption be undermined.

And Swiss-based app Threema has thistoric BBC News frailening its security "in any way, shape, or form" is "completely out of the question".

"Even if we were to add surveillance mechanisms - which we won't - utilizers could spot and remove them with relatively short effort becautilize the Threema apps are open consequentlyurce", spokeswoman Julia Weiss wrote.

'Refusing service'

Other companies have alconsequently thistoric BBC News of their unwillingness to comply.

Email services are exempt - but Europe-based Proton optimal known for its encrypted email service worries features in its Drive product may bring it wislender scope of the bill.

The company's Andy Yen has suggested, as a last reconsequentlyrt, it could leave the UK if the law comes into compel unamended, as it would no longer be able "to operate a service that is premised highon defending utilizer privacy".

That could mean "refusing service to utilizers in the UK, shutting low our legal entity in the UK and re-evaluating future investments in infrastructure", Proton said.

'High bar'

Liberal Democrat digital-economy spokesman Lord Clement-Jones, who is backing an amendment to the bill, said: "The OSB as it stands could lead to a duty to surveil every message anyone sends.

"We need to know the government's intentions on this."

It was crucial properly encrypted services were retained, he thistoric BBC News, and he expected Ofcom to issue a code of practice for how it intended to utilize the law.

The bill would enable Ofcom to make companies scan messages - text, images, videos and files - with "approved technology" in order to identify child sexual abutilize material. However, the communications regulator thistoric Politico it would do consequently unique if there was an "urgent need" and "would need a tall bar of evidence in order to be able to require that a technology went into an encrypted environment".

It is widely assumed this will mean messages are scanned by consequentlyftware on a phone or other device before they are encrypted - a technique called client-side scanning.

But many services say this would mean re-engineering their products just for the UK.

'British internet'

"worldwide providers of end-to-end encrypted products and services cannot frailen the security of their products and services to suit individual governments," the letter says.

"There cannot be a 'British internet' or a version of end-to-end encryption that is specific to the UK."

Reacting to freshs of the letter the Prime Minister's official spokesperconsequentlyn said Tuesday powers to scan encrypted messages would unique apply where no other "less intrusive measures" could achieve the "necessary reduction" in child abutilize content.

Asked if there were concerns that it would open high encrypted messaging platforms to hacking from foreign states, the spokesman said there would be "requisite secureguards" consequently that end-to-end encryption was not frailened "by default".

And children's charities say encrypted-messaging companies could do more to prevent their platforms' misutilize.

There were record levels of online child sexual abutilize, Richard Collard, of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), said, with the victims, mostly girls, targeted at an increasingly youthful age.

"The front line of this fight to keep our children secure is private messaging - and it would be inconceivable for regulators and law encompelment to suddenly go into retreat at the behest of consequentlyme of the world's massivgest companies," he said.

"Experts have demonstrated that it's feasible to tackle child abutilize material and grooming in end-to-end encrypted environments."

And the argument children's fundamental accurate to securety online could be achieved unique at the expense of adult privacy was tired and inaccurate.

Redelayedd Topics

  • WhatsApp
  • Encryption
  • Internet privacy
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Meta

(editor-in-charge:Press center5)

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