How UK Online Safety Bill has brought arch rivals WhatsApp and Signal together


WhatsApp, Signal and other messaging services have urged the UK government to rethink the Online Safety Bill (OSB). The Bill grants the Office of Communications (or Ofcom), the UK’s communications regulator, the power to be able to ask the platforms to monitor users to identify and remove child-abuse material.
The companies are concerned that the new Bill will undermine the apps’ end-to-end encryption – something that Meta-owned company and Signal have constantly promoted. End-to-end encryption chats can only be read on the sender and the recipient’s app.
“Our position remains clear. We will not back down on providing private, safe communications. Today, we join with other encrypted messengers pushing back on the UK’s flawed Online Safety Bill,” Signal said in a tweet.
The company also shared a letter signed by Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp at Meta, Meredith Whittaker, president at Signal, and representatives from Threema, Element, Wire and Session apps.

Here’s what the letter reads
To anyone who cares about safety and privacy on the internet.
As end-to-end-encrypted communication services, we urge the UK Government to address the risks that the Online Safety Bill poses to everyone’s privacy and safety. It is not too late to ensure that the Bill aligns with the Government’s stated intention to protect end-to-end encryption and respect the human right to privacy.
Around the world, businesses, individuals and governments face persistent threats from online fraud, scams and data theft. Malicious actors and hostile states routinely challenge the security of our critical infrastructure. End-to-end encryption is one of the strongest possible defenses against these threats, and as vital institutions become ever more dependent on internet technologies to conduct core operations, the stakes have never been higher.
As currently drafted, the Bill could break end-to-end encryption, opening the door to routine, general and indiscriminate surveillance of personal messages of friends, family members, employees, executives, journalists, human rights activists and even politicians themselves, which would fundamentally undermine everyone’s ability to communicate securely.
The Bill provides no explicit protection for encryption, and if implemented as written, could empower OFCOM to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and compromising the privacy of all users.
In short, the Bill poses an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety and security of every UK citizen and the people with whom they communicate around the world, while emboldening hostile governments who may seek to draft copy-cat laws.
Proponents say that they appreciate the importance of encryption and privacy while also claiming that it’s possible to surveil everyone’s messages without undermining end-to-end encryption. The truth is that this is not possible.
We aren’t the only ones who share concerns about the UK Bill. The United Nations has warned that the UK Government’s efforts to impose backdoor requirements constitute “a paradigm shift that raises a host of serious problems with potentially dire consequences”.
Even the UK Government itself has acknowledged the privacy risks that the text of the Bill poses, but has said its “intention” isn’t for the Bill to be interpreted this way.
Global providers of end-to-end encrypted products and services cannot weaken the security of their products and services to suit individual governments. There cannot be a “British internet,” or a version of end-to-end encryption that is specific to the UK.
The UK Government must urgently rethink the Bill, revising it to encourage companies to offer more privacy and security to its residents, not less. Weakening encryption, undermining privacy, and introducing the mass surveillance of people’s private communications is not the way forward.
Signed by those who care about keeping our conversations secure:
Matthew Hodgson, CEO, Element
Alex Linton, Director, OPTF/Session
Meredith Whittaker, President, Signal
Martin Blatter, CEO, Threema
Ofir Eyal, CEO, Viber Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp at Meta Alan Duric, CTO, Wire

Here’s what the UK government has to say
The government said that it is possible to have both privacy and child safety.
“We support strong encryption but this cannot come at the cost of public safety. Tech companies have a moral duty to ensure they are not blinding themselves and law enforcement to the unprecedented levels of child sexual abuse on their platforms,” BBC quoted a government official as saying.
“The Online Safety Bill in no way represents a ban on end-to-end encryption, nor will it require services to weaken encryption,” the official added.


Source link

Leave a Comment