7 Countries Are Asking for an End to End-To-End Encryption So They Can Access Your Messages
7 countries are calling for messaging platforms to put an end to the end-to-end encryption that they use to protect users’ privacy even from the eyes of the government.
The countries are the US, UK, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada and they are requesting a backdoor in Facebook messenger and WhatsApp particularly.
They are not implying that the platforms should reduce the safety of the users, but they are seeking to have unhindered access to conversations when the need arises.
Without end-to-end encryption, your messages could be read by almost everyone including the company that created the platform and the government.
But with strong encryption, you can be free to express yourself knowing that only the intended recipient can read the message.
The Government’s Request
Members of the Five Eyes Alliance – Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK have come to an agreement with India and Japan to demand that end-to-end encryption on Facebook messenger and WhatsApp be lifted.
They are capitalizing on the communication of terrorists and child abusers without fear of being caught to gain this access they seek.
According to the UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel, the government owes safety to its citizens especially the children, and they can do this by unmasking the activities of terrorists and child abusers.
The countries argue that to help stop criminal activities, the messaging platforms need to give the government authorized access to conversations via a backdoor when necessary.
They have made several attempts to put an end to the end-to-end encryption that millions of users including journalists and whistleblowers depend on to keep their communications intact.
In an international statement made by the governments of the seven nations, they want tech companies who provide communication services such as Facebook and WhatsApp to provide authorized and lawful access to the authorities when it is required without weakening the security and privacy users enjoy.
The three measures that the Five Eyes Alliance, India and Japan are asking for include:
- Grant access to law enforcement agencies to messages in a format that would be easily readable when they have presented a lawful authorization to access such information.
- Go beyond protecting their users but see the bigger picture and work to protect the general public, especially the vulnerable ones. This is by putting systems in place that allow them to act against illegal content while aiding investigations and prosecution of crimes.
- Regularly consult with the government and other security stakeholders to make designs that grant legal access when needed.
You can see that these countries even though they want to protect the security of their citizens, seek to break the system that provides them with this security.
The Consequences of a Backdoor
The government has severally asked that a backdoor be put in place to permit lawful access to chats during an investigation.
What they have failed to come to terms with is the fact that placing backdoors in the encryption algorithm weakens the encryption and puts user data at risk.
In their defense, the UK government made a statement supporting the need to create the backdoor. They stated that when full encryption is applied to communication platforms, it limits the actions of the companies themselves to curb illegal activities.
Once a third party has access to content, it can’t be termed encryption anymore as this move defeats the purpose of the encryption in the first place. It will weaken the entire system and put user data at risk of being intercepted and compromised.
The international communities have considered this and insist that tech companies ensure that user safety is not reduced in their designs even if they provide access to law enforcement agencies when necessary.
In an open letter to several signatory countries by a coalition of international civil rights groups in 2019, it has been pointed out that this is technically impossible.
Governments have argued that access can be granted to good actors in encrypted communication while putting security checks to prevent access to bad actors. This simply isn’t possible!
Providing such access would weaken the security of critical infrastructure and put devices and services at risk of compromised data. Critical infrastructure is also protected by the encryption that serves consumers and so weakening one weakens all.
Since several countries are coming up with their laws concerning encryption, companies would have to make adjustments to keep following the laws.
What would most likely happen is that changes may be made in apps for those specific regions, or the changes may be general and deny global users of the encryption that has protected their privacy from hackers.
Throwback to Actions Against End-To-End Encryption
In 2013, after Edward Snowden’s leaks, many governments and companies have been having serious confrontations concerning user privacy.
One example of such confrontations was the event of the San Bernadino shootings that took place in 2015. The FBI tried to compel Apple to unlock the shooter’s phones but it wasn’t done.
Snowden’s leaks opened the eyes of the public to the indiscriminate data collection by the government, and the masses patronized companies that could provide them with much-needed security and privacy.
It led to the provision of strong encryption that permitted only the sender and receiver of a message to be able to decipher it. Any third party that intercepts the message would only see gibberish.
Such moves have denied the government the right to monitor and spy on its citizens, and many nations have made the move to legally end the encryption of messages.
Their reason is that it limits the fight against insecurity and crime.
Australia is one of such countries and they have passed a law that allows tech companies to provide end-to-end encryption, but with a backdoor that allows the government access to any communication system built in Australia.
In the US, the Senate has passed a bill that is awaiting votes to make tech companies responsible for whatever is posted on their apps by the users. So they need to monitor their users, taking away the privacy users seek when they use such platforms.
The statements from the countries to these tech companies explain what the government wants, but it doesn’t compel the companies to do anything, so users can still feel secure as they send and receive messages.
The US and Australia have gone further in their bid as they are using their legislature to force companies like Facebook and other messaging platforms to create a backdoor for their access. This will ultimately limit the freedom of internet use and speech that was once enjoyed.
With the efforts that are being made by countries in the Five Eyes Alliance plus India and Japan to create a backdoor on Facebook messenger and WhatsApp, the public would have to speak up.
Such bills would put an end to the internet freedom of expression and speech that are being enjoyed now. Familiarity with tools that are resistant to censorship should also be handy as the trend is unpredictable.
A VPN is one of such tools and even though there are a lot of them, not all are capable of providing you with the security and privacy you seek.
LimeVPN is a premium VPN that encrypts your data with AES 256 encryption so that no one else knows what you do on the internet. It’s affordable and promises you great performance.
So even if your messages aren’t encrypted (if the law is passed), you can protect your accounts by using LimeVPN’s encryption.