General News

Encryption backdoors by-design

The ‘Five Eyes’ is an alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Its purpose is to provide a multilateral agreement for military and security focussed intelligence.

There have been some worrying developments in October 2020 as the Five Eyes nations have released a statement backed by all parties that, while they believe in the importance of strong encryption for the security of personal data, intellectual property and the protection of journalists and human rights in repressive states, they believe it is counter-productive and dangerous to limit the abilities of intelligence and national security.

They have called changes to the design of public IT systems to allow for:

• Public Safety by Design – to allow companies to act more freely against illegal and dangerous content

• Law enforcement agencies to be provided with lawful backdoor access to data held on these IT systems

• Requirement of IT companies to work with law enforcement when designing IT platforms

While it can be argued that there are public safety benefits to law enforcement’s free access to social media platforms it presents a worry precedent where governments insist on accessing private and personal data by design with no formal process of request or justification before accessing that data.

In addition to this, the UK are still in the process of completing their Brexit negotiations at this time. After the 31st December 2020, the UK will no longer be part of the EU and must therefore be assessed for adequacy of its data protection laws and security of personal data. Any move towards the “backdoors” by design to encrypted IT systems, such as that held by Australia since they passed new Data Encryption Laws in 2018, will likely be seen by the EU as a negative step.

We will keep a close eye on these developments and the continuing Brexit negotiations and update you once those resolutions are made public. If you wish to read more on this subject, we can direct you both to the original article by IT Pro and the statement from the Five Eyes nations issued by the United States Department of Justice: