In a recently published statement, members of the intelligence-sharing alliance Five Eyes along with representatives from Japan and India have called on tech companies to create a solution that would allow law enforcement agencies to access end-to-end encrypted communications.
The five Eyes alliance, which is made up of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has been trying for years to get tech companies to agree to encryption backdoors and the group made similar calls to tech giants last year and in 2018.
In its latest statement, the alliance urged tech companies to work with governments to embed the safety of the public in system designs, enable law enforcement to access content in a readable and usable format and to engage in consultation with governments and other stakeholders to facilitate legal access to encrypted communications in a way that is substantive and genuinely influences design decisions.
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When implemented properly, end-to-end encryption allows users to have secure conversations over chat, audio or video without having to share the encryption key with the tech companies themselves. This means that their conversations will remain private as even the companies themselves are unable to access them as they don't possess the encryption keys.
Signatories of Five Eyes' latest statement argue that end-to-end encryption has a negative impact on public safety as it prevents tech companies from identifying and responding to violations of their terms of service while also preventing law enforcement agencies from access content they need to investigate serious crimes.
This allows for encrypted communication platforms to become a save haven for criminal activity that puts the safety of “highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children” in danger.
Officials from the Five Eyes nations also said they are committed to working with tech companies to create a solution that lets users continue to use encrypted communications, though they also want law enforcement and tech companies to have the ability to crack down on criminal activity online.
In addition to encrypted instant messaging applications, the alliance is also calling for encryption backdoors to be made available for “device encryption, custom encrypted applications and encryption across integrated platforms”.
The war for encrypted data has been going on for some time now and thankfully Five Eyes has failed at its attempts to mandate the inclusion of encryption backdoors in messaging apps and other secure communication methods.
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After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.