Five Eyes nations want access to your encrypted communications data

laptop with encrypted text

Following a recent meeting in Australia, the Five Eyes nations have told the tech industry to aid spy agencies by creating legal ways for them to access encrypted services while warning that governments can always create new legislation if they fail to do so.

The UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand met in Australia to discuss encryption and how spy agencies could gain easier access to encrypted data.

The Five Eyes nations released an official communiqué following their meeting in which they claim that their inability to lawfully access encrypted content presents a risk to democratic justice systems while issuing a warning to the tech industry.

In the document, the group said that they have “no interest or intention to weaken encryption mechanisms” and they stressed the importance of privacy laws. However, in a separate framework, the Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption, the Five Eyes nations revealed that their views on encryption have hardly changed, saying:

“Privacy laws must prevent arbitrary or unlawful interference, but privacy is not absolute. Governments should recognize that the nature of encryption is such that that there will be situations where access to information is not possible, although such situations should be rare.”

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The role of technology providers

While government agencies are able to seek access to personal information when authorised to so by a court, these same principles do not give Five Eyes the ability to use the content of encrypted data. The group views this issue as "a pressing international concern that requires urgent, sustained attention and informed discussion on the complexity of the issues and interests at stake". 

The Five Eyes nations stressed that local law enforcement requires help from technology providers.

"Law enforcement agencies in our countries need technology providers to assist with the execution of lawful orders."

The group highlighted the fact that since tech companies, carriers and service providers are subject to local laws, it has ways of making them cooperate if they fail to do so willingly.

The Statements of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption framework concludes with a warning to these firms, saying:

“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.”

Via The Register