In an open letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, several security experts and human rights groups expressed concern about the danger that the UK’s online security bill poses to end-to-end encryption. end (E2EE).
The signatories of the letter argue that since UK residents and businesses now rely on E2EE more than ever to protect themselves, the government must ensure that the Online Security Bill does not impair the encryption of private communications. .
“Encryption is essential to ensure people are safe online, to boost economic security through a business-friendly UK economy that can weather the cost of living crisis and to ensure national security,” the letter to the Prime Minister said. minister.
“As you begin your new role as Prime Minister, the undersigned civil society organizations and companies, including members of the Global Encryption Coalition, urge you and your government to ensure that encryption is not weakened.”
Campaign groups warn that the current provisions of the Online Safety Bill will erode the encryption of private communications, reducing internet safety for UK citizens and businesses, including the very groups the Privacy Bill online security seeks to protect.
They further argue that these proposals will undermine freedom of expression, which they say is a crucial aspect of a free society that sets the UK apart from aggressors who use oppression and force to achieve their goals.
The Online Safety Bill could be discussed again in the British Parliament as early as next week.
Legal but harmful speech
Parliamentary debate on the bill was suspended through the summer and again in October due to political unrest within the ruling Conservative Party.
The government has hinted that it wants to make changes to the draft, although those changes are expected to focus on clauses related to so-called “legal but harmful” speech.
During the Conservative Party leadership race this summer, Rishi Sunak expressed concern that the bill could stifle free speech, since the government would have the ability to designate information as “legal but harmful”. “. He promised to change Article 14, which would have given social media companies the right to remove offensive comments they disagreed with.
The Case Against Government Backdoors
Privacy advocates claim that the various proposals put forward by different governments in recent years to scan user-to-user communications for criminal content are flawed because they are based on the false assumption that a backdoor or another workaround to read encrypted messages cannot be created. for beneficial use.
“It doesn’t and never will,” they argue, adding that criminals, domestic abusers and authoritarian regimes would take advantage of backdoors like those suggested by the Online Safety Bill.
“We all deserve the protection that end-to-end encryption provides, but the most vulnerable in society – children and at-risk community members – need it most.”
A welcome for the bill
Meanwhile, the return of the Online Safety Bill to parliament has been welcomed by child safety groups.
The bill’s return was hailed as a “relief” by Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, which organizes efforts to tackle child abuse images online.
“We have seen that the threats people, especially children, face online do not go away, and we know that strong and unequivocal action will be needed if the UK is to achieve its goal of being the safest place in the world to be online,” she said.
“Now we need to see lawmakers coming together in a common goal. The police, charities and big tech companies are all doing a phenomenal job, and clear direction from the government will be a welcome boost.”
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