In an open letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, several security experts and human rights groups have expressed concerns about the threat posed by UK online safety law to end-to-end encryption (E2EE).
The letter’s signatories argue that as UK residents and businesses now rely more than ever on E2EE to keep themselves secure, the government must ensure that the online security law does not compromise the encryption of private communications.
“Encryption is critical to ensuring internet users are protected online, building economic security through a pro-business UK economy that can weather the cost of living crisis, and ensuring national security.” the letter to the Prime Ministers.
“As you begin your new role as Prime Minister, the undersigned civil society organizations and businesses, including members of the Global Encryption Coalition, urge you and your government to ensure that encryption is not weakened.”
Campaign groups warn that the current provisions of the Online Safety Bill will erode encryption in private communications, reducing internet safety for UK citizens and businesses, including the groups the Online Safety Bill seeks to protect.
They further argue that these proposals jeopardize freedom of expression, which they say is a crucial aspect of the free society that sets the UK apart from aggressors who use repression and violence to achieve their goals.
The online safety law may be discussed again in the British Parliament as early as next week.
Legal but harmful speech
Parliamentary debate on the bill was suspended throughout the summer and again in October due to political unrest within the ruling Conservative Party.
The cabinet has hinted that it wants to make changes to the draft, although these changes are expected to focus on clauses related to so-called ‘legal but harmful’ language.
During the Conservative Party’s leadership race this summer, Rishi Sunak expressed concern over the potential of the bill to suppress free speech, as the government would have the ability to classify information as ‘legal but harmful’. He promised to change Clause 14, which would have given social media companies the right to remove offensive comments they disagreed with.
The case against government backdoors
Privacy advocates argue that the various proposals put forward by various governments in recent years to scan communications between users for criminal content are flawed because they are based on the false assumption that a back door or other solution to get encrypted messages read only can be made. for useful use.
“It’s not and never will be,” they claimadding that criminals, domestic violence and authoritarian regimes would exploit loopholes such as those suggested by the Online Safety Bill.
“We all deserve the protection that end-to-end encryption provides, but the most vulnerable in society — children and members of at-risk communities — need it most.”
A welcome to the Bill
Meanwhile, the return of the online safety bill to parliament has been welcomed by child safety groups.
The bill’s return was hailed as a “relief” by Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, which works to combat online child abuse images.
“We have seen that the threats people, especially children, face online are not going away, and we know that strong and unequivocal action will be needed if the UK is to achieve its goal of being the safest place in the world to play online. are.” she said.
“Now we need to see legislators working together with a common goal. Police, charities and big tech companies are all doing a phenomenal job, and clear government direction will be a welcome boost.”