The US has joined 6 other countries to demand backdoor access into the encryption of social messaging platforms, especially of the major tech companies. The 6 other countries are the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and Japan.
All 7 countries have signed an international statement that talked about the dangers of encryption and its role as a roadblock to law enforcement agents in the course of their duty.
According to the statement (which also recognizes the importance of encryption to user data and privacy), the way encryption is being used by tech companies precludes both the companies and the legal officers from being able to protect the user community they both serve.
Facebook Messenger was allegedly responsible for 12 million of the 18.4 million worldwide reports of child sexual abuse material to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)] in 2018.
The statement signed by the 7 countries further explained that there would be no way to protect data of this sort if end-to-end encryption is eventually implemented by default in Facebook Messenger.
How this will work
Based on the concerns for sexually abused children and the need to access communications of criminals, all 7 governments are requesting for a backdoor to be built into the encryption system such that will protect users’ data and their phones.
The backdoor, if built, will be for the foreseeable future except if it causes damages of visible proportions like the Twitter hack, and forces the government to retract the demand.
It will require that the companies “embed the safety of the public in system designs” so they can access and act against illegal content.– According to the statement
The requirement further specifies that law enforcement agents be given access to content in a readable and usable format and in the right proportions. The design of a backdoor will also be based on consultation with government and stakeholders in a way that will guarantee substantive legal access.
However, the adequate legal authorisation has to be obtained before the backdoor can be opened to a user’s information if the backdoor is created.
How this will affect you…
The demand is on a regional basis, meaning that India will only be able to access content that was created in its region.
For Nigerians in any of the listed countries, this will also mean that the local authorities will be able to access your private communications as well as the content of your phone if the tech companies comply.
This may also make the data and privacy of every user in the 7 countries vulnerable, whether or not they are suspects in a criminal case as there is no telling who may be able to hack the encryption backdoor if a weak link is deliberately created.
But the document challenges the assertion that “public safety cannot be protected without compromising privacy or cybersecurity”.
It is not yet clear, however, if the encryption backdoor will affect just the data of the 7 countries or if the encryption for global users of the communication apps which include Whatsapp, will be affected.
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