The Fight for End-To-End Encryption

The Fight for End-To-End Encryption

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CEO of Meta Mark Zuckerberg is going head-to-head with the UK government over his plans to build super-secure messaging into all his apps, despite a potential landmark law that could effectively outlaw the technology.

There are many buzzwords involved that we’ve all heard before, but what do they actually mean? “End-to-end encryption”, “backdoors” and “client-side scanning” – it all comes down to the question:  should technology companies be able to read people’s messages?

This is the basis for an ongoing conflict between Silicon Valley and the governments of at least a dozen countries around the world.

According to BBC News, WhatsApp, iMessage, Android Messages and Signal all use the secure system end-to-end encryption, a technology that means only the sender on one end and the receiver on the other can read messages, see media or hear phone calls. Even the app makers themselves can’t access the content.

While end-to-end encrypted apps are becoming increasingly popular, most governments and security agencies reluctantly accepted the technology’s rise. That was until four years ago when Zuckerberg announced that both the Messenger app and Instagram would have end-to-end encryption as standard.

Authorities in the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, India, Turkey, Japan and Brazil have criticized the technology and are calling to stop the switchover, but none has taken a step to interfere with the apps- until now.

The UK’s wide-reaching Online Safety Bill is working towards making tech companies build in a technical backdoor to allow messages to be scanned for illegal material, and it will likely be passed into law in the near future.

Some of the main concerns about this technology are police missing on key evidence to convict criminals or terrorists, and the risk of children being groomed online in secret.

This Wednesday, 68 prominent security and privacy researchers published a letter saying the Online Safety Bill would effectively break end-to-end encryption. They are asking tech firms to find a way to implement child safety measures whilst maintaining privacy for users, but experts responded by saying it is impossible.

Apps like WhatsApp and Signal have stated that they would rather remove their services from the UK than degrade end-to-end encryption security. Switching to this tech is complex and expensive, as evidenced by Meta, but according to bosses of tech companies it is ultimately worth it.

Big tech companies see this implementation as key for rebuilding trust in their services, after years of data scandals.

This information was provided by BBC News.