The UK Government is at it again: trying to require technical changes to products and protocols which will severely impact (read “destroy”) the security of users. This time, it’s the Online Safety Bill and, like pretty much all similar attempts, it requires the implementation of backdoors to things like messaging services. Lots of people have stood up and made the point that this is counter-productive and dangerous – here are a couple of links:
- The Register – Wrong time to weaken encryption, UK IT chartered institute tells government
- The Matrix Foundation – The UK’s Online Safety Bill undermines everyone’s safety
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this (The Backdoor Fallacy: explaining it slowly for governments and Helping our governments – differently, for a start), and I fear that it won’t be the last. The problem is that none of these technical approaches work: none of them can work. Privacy and backdoors (and this is a backdoor, make no mistake about it) are fundamentally incompatible. And everyone with an ounce (or gram, I suppose) of technical expertise agrees: we know (and we can prove) that what’s being suggested won’t and can’t work.
We gain enormous benefits from technology, and with those benefits come risks, and some downsides which malicious actors exploit. The problem is that you can’t have one without the other. If you try to fix (and this approach won’t fix – it might reduce, but not fix) the problem that malicious actors and criminals use online messaging service, you open out a huge number of opportunities for other actors, including malicious governments (now or in the future) to do very, very bad things, whilst reducing significantly the benefits to private individuals, businesses, human rights organisations, charities and the rest. There is no zero sum game here.
What can you do? You can read up about the problem, you can add your voice to the technical discussions and/or if you’re a British citizen or resident, you should sign the petition on the official UK government site. This needs 10,000 signatures, so please get signing!