UK ISPs oppose weakening of end-to-end encryption

The European ISP Association (EuroISPA) has called for major social media companies like Facebook to delay or cease altogether the weakening of end-to-end encryption across its online messaging platforms.

This goes against calls and demands made by the UK, US and Australian governments to relax the implementation of the encryption technology, which they believe can be instrumental in looking into conversations between criminals and terrorists. This can, in turn, make it easier to catch them by police forces.

The three governments directed an open letter in response to Facebook’s ‘Privacy First’ plans published in March this year, which aims to mimic the end-to-end encryption on its digital messaging platform like that of its competitors. While the governments voiced support for encryption in banking, commerce and communications, they stated:

“Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes. This puts our citizens and societies at risk by severely eroding a company’s ability to detect and respond to illegal content and activity, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse, terrorism, and foreign adversaries’ attempts to undermine democratic values and institutions, preventing the prosecution of offenders and safeguarding of victims. It also impedes law enforcement’s ability to investigate these and other serious crimes.”

In turn, however, EuroISPA believed it already worked closely with law enforcement agencies to maximise online safety. Its president, Maximillian Schubert, said: “EuroISPA’s members continuously work with law enforcement towards making the online sphere a safer space for businesses as well as individuals. At the same time, EuroISPA firmly supports strong encryption, as it plays a fundamental role in ensuring cybersecurity and users’ privacy”.

Cybersecurity experts have warned that although the governments want access to popular messaging platforms, it is likely that shrewd criminals will have devised their own apps and messaging streams – with their own end-to-end encryption – that slip under the governments’ radars, rendering the dialogue between the involved agencies futile.