Following the sad events that took place in Paris recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that the UK should take stricter measures to make it harder for terror groups to communicate in the country, including a ban on publicly available messaging apps that encrypt user messages, WhatsApp being an example one of those services.
At a recent event, Cameron compared mobile means of communication to other means such as phone calls and letters that are currently susceptible to government tap-ins and interceptions, saying that third-party messaging services should be treated the same way, and that encrypted online communication tools that could be used by potential terrorists should be outright banned if Britain’s intelligence agencies are not given increased access.
“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people […] that we cannot read?” “And my answer to that question is no, we must not.” – David Cameron
The PM’s comments sparked outrage from the press and privacy advocates, as it adds to the ongoing battle between European politicians and internet companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook over hassle-free government access to user information and data. Microsoft for example has been fighting for the privacy and freedom of the internet, and has recently found itself in court against the US government for refusing to breach user privacy.
The incumbent Prime Minister who is currently campaigning for re-election said that should he win the elections, his government would proceed to ban encrypted messaging apps — the likes of WhatsApp, SnapChat, iMessage and FaceTime all encrypt their messages and could fall under the ban — in addition to passing legislation that would give Britain’s intelligence agencies access to all emails. This would force internet giants to make drastic changes to their applications and services, either by building backdoors to them (which hackers would also benefit from) or by simply not providing their services to UK customers. Either way, it’s the customers that end up at a disadvantage.
While Cameron’s suggestions would certainly put a dent in extremist activities, user privacy as a whole should not be compromised over the actions of a minority of disturbed individuals. Leave it to the terrorists to take your freedom away.Further reading: Encryption, Law, Microsoft, WhatsApp