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UK Government Determined to ‘Combat’ Technology

Brian Baglow

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The UK government is continuing to push for more control over online services which it says are being used by criminals, despite not fully understanding the technology.

Speaking at a conservative party conference event, home secretary Amber Rudd has reiterated her desire to ‘combat’ the use of encrypted services by criminals and extremists – and said that Silicon valley tech giants sneer and laugh at politicians trying to legislate such technology.

The home secretary has also stated that she plans to make streaming extremist material online a criminal offence.

Ms Rudd told the audience that while she did not understand how end-to-end encryption worked, she did not need to, in order to know that it was helping criminals.

She said that she had no desire to weaken encryption by introducing ‘back doors’ or ban it entirely, but it should allow easier access to law enforcement and security services.

The home secretary also claimed that the companies behind encrypted services had a moral responsibility to help security services fight crime and terrorism. “It’s so easy to be patronised in this business,” she said. “We will do our best to understand it.

“We will take advice from other people but I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right.”

The BBC reports that the WhatsApp service, which has been repeatedly criticised by the Home Secretary is also used by MPs, including Tory backbenchers, for confidential gossip, specifically because it offers end-to-end encryption.

It Can’t Be Uninvented

Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, which represents tech companies including Google, Amazon, etc. said it was an “understandable goal” for the home secretary to “want to remove it from end-to-end”.

However, he said, “since it is just math and it has been invented it can’t be uninvented”.

“Even if every internet company that we represent said ‘ok we are turning off encryption’ you are just weakening the security for everybody in this room but that math, that technology still exists for others to use on other platforms.”

Extremist Material Ban Extended To Streaming

Ms Rudd has also announced that the law which bans downloading and possessing extremist material such as bomb-making instructions, will be extended to include streaming video through sites such as YouTube.

The home secretary said: “I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions face the full force of the law.

“Changes will enable police and the security service to keep pace with modern patterns of internet use and intervene earlier in an investigation given the speed with which online radicalisation is taking place.”

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Brian Baglow

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