The UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5, and Sir Andrew Parker, the general director, are pressing companies that provide end-to-end encryption for their messaging apps to offer law enforcement a way to read messages, when a warrant is available.
End-to-end encryption is already implemented or about to be added to most messaging apps today. The companies building these applications want to offer users a secure avenue, but it’s easy to imagine that the same service could be used by people looking to do harm.
Before end-to-end encryption, law enforcement agencies had access to the then-existing technologies, a fact exposed by the revelations of Edward Snowden. Now, access to the messaging services from outside is much more cumbersome, and sometimes impossible.
During a recent ITV interview, Sir Parker said he wanted some sort of “backdoor” or equivalent technology that would let law enforcement read messages, when backed by a legal warrant.
“Can you provide end-to-end encryption but on an exceptional basis – exceptional basis – where there is a legal warrant and a compelling case to do it, provide access to stop the most serious forms of harm happening?” Parker asked in the interview, addressing the question to technology companies.
While he didn’t name any company, some of the biggest names in the business, such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Signal, and Telegram, already have some form of end-to-end encryption, and some better than others.
Various governments have been trying to crack this problem for a while, with little success. A few years ago, a new organization called “Five Eyes” that included authorities in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand were looking to pressure tech companies into offering access to private data.