EU looks to ban encryption backdoors in messaging services

To ban or not to ban, that is the question. In the wake of a number of terrorist attacks, the issue of end-to-end encryption – and whether or not it should be banned – has been the topic of hot discussion. While the UK government is keen to weaken encryption by building in a backdoor, the EU is gearing itself up to make doing that illegal.

The European Union has proposed a law banning encryption back doors, making end-to-end security mandatory across its member states. While the European Union wants to make it easier for police to obtain data linked to terrorists, they don’t want to weaken the power of encryption. The proposed amended regulation would not only require end-to-end encryption when available, but forbid backdoors that offer guaranteed access to law enforcement. “EU residents need to know that the "confidentiality and safety" of their data is "guaranteed," according to the draft, and backdoors risk "weakening" that privacy,” a spokesman said.

That will be music to the ears of the tech and tech security firms who fought back when home security Amber Rudd first proposed that end-to-end encryption should be scrapped. She – and many concerned government officials – claim that messaging services such as WhatsApp give terrorists a free place to operate and co-ordinate their attacks.

Avast security expert Tony Anscombe said the encryption is the ‘best defence’ against data misuse and is the ‘backbone of democracy. “Banning encryption in order to get to the communications of a select few opens the door to the communications of many, and renders us all less secure and our lives less private,” he said. “If you build a backdoor, it’s there for everybody to access. And if you store that data you collect, even in encrypted form, how secure is it? All these data breaches we hear about show our privacy is regularly being breached by hackers, so the action suggested by the home secretary would only open us all up to further invasions of privacy.”

The proposal still has to be passed by European Parliament and then approved by the European Council, so there is a way to go. But if it does get pushed through, then it will be interesting to see how the UK reacts, especially with Brexit negotiations (hopefully) about to get underway.

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