US and UK governments call for mandatory backdoors in encrypted chat

digital lock

In a Five Eyes ministerial meeting in late August, the governments of the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand put forward a number of proposals that focus on national security, including a stronger stance on encrypted messaging.

Established some time during World War II, Five Eyes is an umbrella agreement between the five aforementioned countries that allows for the free sharing of intelligence and information for the sake of national security in each nation.

With the intention of countering terrorist threats and other high-level crime, the new proposals put forward at the meeting indicate a stronger stance on online security – specifically, the use of backdoors.

“The Governments of the Five Eyes encourage information and communications technology service providers to voluntarily establish lawful access solutions to their products and services that they create or operate in our countries”, the statement on encryption reads.

“Should governments continue to encounter impediments to lawful access to information necessary to aid the protection of the citizens of our countries, we may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions.”

The complication

While the specific technicalities laid out in the Statement of Principles are somewhat vague, there’s no doubt that the message is outlining the forced implementation of backdoor access to encrypted messages.

Security and privacy experts have warned against the adoption of backdoors by tech companies, claiming that it undermines the entire principle of encryption, exposes users to cyberattacks, and is a violation of user privacy. 

Several of these nations already have legislation in place that addresses similar privacy concerns, such as the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill, and recent proposals would have Australia go the same way, so it’s not surprising to see an attempt to unify these policies across the Five Eyes countries.