Home Secretary Amber Rudd has claimed that cryptography is of little interest to 'real people' and primarily of benefit to terrorists and other criminals, accusing technology companies of allowing their services to be used to 'inspire and plan [terrorists'] acts of violence'.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph, the Home Secretary used the platform to claim that 'real people' have little interest in the privacy brought about through strong cryptography and that it is of far more benefit to criminals and terrorists than the common citizen.
The Home Secretary's comments come as she visits US technology companies including WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned instant messaging firm which boasts of its use of end-to-end cryptography to protect data from spying eyes, during a meeting of the newly-formed Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism in Silicon Valley. 'Beyond the harmful content that is openly available', the Home Secretary writes, 'there is that which we cannot see, in the form of encrypted data.
'To be very clear', the Home Secretary continues, 'the Government supports strong encryption and has no intention of banning end-to-end encryption. But the inability to gain access to encrypted data in specific and targeted instances - even with a warrant signed by a Secretary of State and a senior judge - is right now severely limiting our agencies' ability to stop terrorist attacks and bring criminals to justice.
'I know some will argue that it's impossible to have both - that if a system is end-to-end encrypted then it's impossible to ever access the communication,' the Home Secretary adds in a rare moment of apparent technical lucidity. 'That might be true in theory,' she continues, spoiling the moment. 'But the reality is different. Real people often prefer ease of use to perfect, unbreakable security. So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption or create so-called "back doors." Who uses Whatsapp [sic] because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family? Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and "usability", and it is here where our expects believe opportunities may lie.'
Pro-privacy organisation the Open Rights Group, naturally, disagrees thoroughly with the Home Secretary's statements. 'The suggestion that real people do not care about the security of their communications is dangerous and misleading,' explains ORG chief executive Jim Killock in a statement to press. 'Some people want privacy from corporations, abusive partners or employers. Others may be worried about confidential information, or be working in countries with a record of human rights abuses. It is not the Home Secretary’s place to tell the public that they do not need end-to-end encryption.
'Amber Rudd must be absolutely clear on what co-operation she expects from Internet companies. She is causing immense confusion because at the moment she sounds like she is asking for the impossible. She must give the public a good idea of the risks she wants to place them under.'
February 24 2020 | 12:00