The encrypted messaging app Signal has stated that it will discontinue service in the United Kingdom if a new law is passed that makes encryption less effective.
Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, stated to the BBC that her company “would definitely, 100% walk away” if the Internet Safety Law required them to reduce the level of anonymity provided by their messaging system.
The government has stated that the idea it is putting forth is not “a prohibition on end-to-end encryption.”
Boris Johnson’s bill, which was initially presented to Parliament, is currently being debated there.
Under the new rule, critics believe that firms will be forced by Ofcom to examine messages on encrypted applications for information related to child sexual abuse or anything related to terrorism.
This has caused concern among businesses whose primary purpose is to facilitate confidential and secure communication.
According to the UK-based company Element, which counts the Ministry of Defense among its clientele, the strategy will result in financial losses for the company’s customers.
In the past, WhatsApp has stated that it will not compromise its security measures at the request of any government.
The term “magical thinking.”
Encryption, according to the government and several renowned child protection charities, impedes efforts to combat online child abuse, which they say is a growing problem. This argument has been made for a long time.
Companies in the computer industry should take precautions to prevent their sites from being used by child molesters, “a statement from the Home Office read. “To prevent their platforms from becoming a safe haven for child molesters, internet corporations should make every effort possible.
It was a plus. “The Online Safety Bill does not constitute a ban on end-to-end encryption; rather, it makes it plain that technical advancements should not be applied in a way that lowers public safety, particularly the safety of children when they are using the internet.
There is no need to choose between one’s own privacy and the safety of their children because both are possible and necessary.
The National Society for the Protection of Children (NSPCC), a charity that works to protect children, issued the following statement in response to the announcement made by Signal: “Tech companies should be required to disrupt the abuse that is occurring at record levels on their platforms, including in private messaging and end-to-end encrypted environments.”
On the other hand, the Open Rights Group, a group that campaigns for digital rights, stated that it showed how the measure threatened to “undermine our freedom to communicate safely and confidentially.”
However, Ms Whittaker stated to the BBC that the idea that we might have privacy, “but only for the good ones,” was “magical thinking.”
She continued by saying, “Either encryption is protecting everyone or it is broken for everyone.”
She referred to a subset of this magical thinking as being “embodied” by the Internet Safety Bill.
Just in the Google Play store, Signal has been downloaded more than 100 million times.
It employs a method known as end-to-end encryption, which involves the scrambling of messages to the point that not even the corporation that runs the service can understand what is being said.
The app is used by a variety of people, including journalists, activists, and politicians, and it is run by a non-profit organization based in California.
Moreover, end-to-end encryption is used by WhatsApp, as well as the iMessage system from Apple, and optionally by Facebook and Telegram.
Apple had proposed a system in which communications sent from phones and other devices would be screened for child abuse photos before being encrypted, but the company decided to scrap the idea after receiving negative feedback about the idea.
This method, which is also known as client-side scanning, has been suggested by some as the strategy that technology companies may ultimately be forced to employ; however, critics contend that it defeats the purpose of encryption.
According to Ms Whittaker, this would have the effect of transforming every person’s mobile device into a “mass surveillance device that phones home to tech corporations and governments and private entities.”
Ms Whittaker stated that “back doors” that permit the scanning of private conversations would be used by “malignant state actors” and “provide a means for criminals to access these systems.”
She stated the following to the BBC when they questioned whether or not their ability to provide a service in the UK would be affected by the Online Safety Bill: “It is possible, but if given a choice, our company would much rather go another route than risk betraying the confidence our customers have placed in us to offer a method of communication that is truly confidential.
“Our guarantees of privacy have never, and will never, be compromised by us in any way.”
Matthew Hodgson, chief executive officer of Element, a British secure communications business, stated that the possibility of forced scanning would cause him to lose customers on its own.
Customers, he suggested, would expect that any secure communication device developed in the United Kingdom would “necessarily have to contain backdoors in order to allow for illicit content to be examined.” This was due to the fact that customers would assume that any secure communication product that originated in the UK would allow for illegal content to be scanned.
That may also result in “a really strange situation,” according to him, in which a government bill might undercut the security guarantees granted to consumers at the Ministry of Defense and other important government areas.
He also stated that it is possible for the company to no longer provide certain services.
Security for children
Ms Whittaker stated that “There is no one who does not wish to safeguard children,” and she continued by stating that “some of the stories that are invoked are horrible.”
When Ms Whittaker was asked how she would reply to accusations that encryption shields abusers, she stated that she believed that the majority of abuse took place in the family and in the community. She claimed that this is where the focus of efforts to stop it should be.
She cited a paper written by Professor Ross Anderson that advocated for better funding of services working in child protection and warned that “the concept that complex social problems are susceptible to cheap technical solutions is the seductive song of the software salesman.”