Oct 14, 2020 - Technology

Five Eyes intelligence alliance renews call for weakening encryption

Representatives of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance — the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand — plus Japan and India, have released a new statement again calling for expanding "lawful access" into commercial encryption.

Why it matters: It’s more international pressure on tech companies to put backdoors into their encrypted systems, even though experts, including the former FBI general counsel, agree these backdoors would likely be exploited by bad actors, including hostile foreign powers.

What they’re saying: "Law enforcement has a responsibility to protect citizens by investigating and prosecuting crime and safeguarding the vulnerable. Technology companies also have responsibilities and put in place terms of service for their users that provide them authority to act to protect the public," the signatories write.

  • "End-to-end encryption that precludes lawful access to the content of communications in any circumstances directly impacts these responsibilities, creating severe risks to public safety."

Between the lines: While the signatories state that they support "strong encryption,” they “urge industry to address our serious concerns where encryption is applied in a way that wholly precludes any legal access to content."

  • In other words, they say they want to protect encryption while simultaneously leaning on private industry to weaken it.

Our thought bubble: Would these countries’ own intelligence services assent to such a weakening of their own cryptographic standards? Unthinkable. But for advocates of backdoors like Attorney General Bill Barr, what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander.

Go deeper