Some Thoughts on the Encryption Regulatory Debate

Henry Pearce
Lecturer in Law, University of Hertfordshire, and Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Law and the Web at the University of Southampton.

This article was originally posted on the UKCLA blog

Debates about the regulation of encryption technologies and surveillance have been around for decades. It is in unfortunate circumstances that these debates have now been thrust back into the public eye. Following the horrifying Westminster attack which occurred on 22nd March 2017 Amber Rudd, the UK’s Home Secretary, has been very vocal in suggesting that in order for the police and security services to be able to effectively investigate and prevent future terrorist acts they must be given access to over-the-top messaging services that utilise end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp. (End-to-end encryption services can generally be described as those which allows for conversations to be read only by the sender and recipient of individual messages, meaning that such messages cannot be intercepted and read by a third party.) Her comments appeared to have been driven by the fact that Khalid Masood, the perpetrator of the attack, had used WhatsApp shortly before commencing his appalling actions. In particular, Rudd has claimed it is “unacceptable” that governmental agencies were unable to read messages protected by WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, and in an interview given to the BBC on Sunday 26th March, intimated that she would consider pursuing the enactment of new legislation which would require the providers of encrypted messaging services to grant access to the UK intelligence agencies. This sentiment has since broadly been endorsed by the UK government. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on the Encryption Regulatory Debate”