G20 calls for tech firms to give access to encrypted messages

World leaders at the G20 have called for ‘lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information to fight terror’. In other words, they want access to encrypted messages.

Led by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball, G20 leaders agreed that technology companies needed to do more to prevent terrorists using encrypted messaging services to plan attacks. Turnball in particular laid the responsibility fully at the technology companies’ door. 

“The G20 community is not talking about giving governments a backdoor to access messaging,” he said. “Rather it is saying to Silicon Valley and its emulators – the ball is in your court. You have created messaging applications which are encrypted end to end, they are being used by terrorists and criminals to hide their murderous plans.

“You must ensure that these dark places can be illuminated by the law so that the freedoms you hold dear will not be stripped away by criminals your technologies have made undetectable.”

Despite saying that the G20 is not asking for a government backdoor, it does sound like the G20 – and Turnball in particular – wants a backdoor built into messaging services such as WhatsApp.

The official G20 statement said: “We will work with the private sector, in particular communication service providers and administrators of relevant applications, to fight exploitation of the internet and social media for terrorist purposes such as propaganda, funding and planning of terrorist acts, inciting terrorism, radicalizing and recruiting to commit acts of terrorism, while fully respecting human rights.

“In line with the expectations of our peoples we also encourage collaboration with industry to provide lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information where access is necessary for the protection of national security against terrorist threats. We affirm that the rule of law applies online as well as it does offline.”

It comes after the UK government and the EU called on technology companies to build in a backdoor. However that plan was met with strong opposition from security experts and technology companies. 

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