U.S., U.K., and other governments issue joint statement asking for encryption backdoor

David Matthews

TS Maniac
Staff member

The members of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement (United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and United Kingdom) have issued a joint statement asking tech companies to essentially open backdoors into encryption in order to allow for law enforcement and national security.

“The increasing use and sophistication of certain encryption designs present challenges for nations in combatting serious crimes and threats to national and global security. Many of the same means of encryption that are being used to protect personal, commercial and government information are also being used by criminals, including child sex offenders, terrorists and organized crime groups to frustrate investigations and avoid detection and prosecution.”

The Five Eyes basically argue that “providers of information and communications technology and services” have a responsibility to provide access to lawfully obtained data and that cooperation with the government constitutes a mutual benefit. The statement goes on to say that despite the promulgation of encrypted services by tech companies, those companies are still subject to the rule of law and must comply with laws that grant access to data in order for the governments to fulfill their duty to protect their citizens from harm.

The statement tries to be conciliatory in by promising that tech companies should do this voluntarily and that the technological means that one company uses to comply with government requests doesn’t have to be the same means that another company uses and neither will the governments prefer one method over another. However, the governments warn that any further “impediments” to access data may result in other “technological, enforcement, legislative, or other measures” in order to ensure compliance.

In a further effort to assuage the fears of civil liberties advocates, the Five Eyes also released a joint memo that details their commitment to the importance of a free and open internet, countering terrorism, cyber security, border control, countering foreign interference, and encryption.

The issue of getting tech companies to allow access to private customer data has been ongoing for quite a while. Apple infamously dealt with this in the aftermath of the San Bernadino terrorist attack while Facebook has been in recent litigation with the U.S. Department of Justice for access to encrypted Messenger data.

Given how driven many large tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple are to reinforce encryption on the web and proprietary messaging applications, governments around the world will likely step up attempts to force those companies to comply with data requests.

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TS Evangelist
The Five Eyes basically argue that “providers of information and communications technology and services” have a responsibility to provide access to lawfully obtained data and that cooperation with the government constitutes a mutual benefit.
And providers have a responsibility to protect user data and user privacy. Backdoors are never okay--they will be abused by a party involved, nefarious or not.
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TS Evangelist
Even if the corporations all roll over for this Orwellian absurdity there is literally no way to stop people from using encryption. All it takes is for ONE person to release a high-level algorithm that gets integrated into a free, open source product and the spies are screwed.
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TechSpot Staff
Staff member
"In order to guarantee maximum security, while making it easy for *our* guys to find out what's going on inside, we've built this massive fortress. The whole thing is thick concrete and lead, totally impregnable except for that flimsy wooden door over there, but don't mind that, it's got a "staff only" sign on it so no one bad will go near it."


TS Evangelist
We'll just ignore all the hacking and customer data exposures that has occurred in the last 10 years. Are the governments really that bad at hacking and the criminals that good?


TS Evangelist
TechSpot Elite
Snowden's leaks from 5 years ago already showed all the major tech companies were working with the government and offered backdoor access for the NSA, FBI, etc... I see news like this as a propaganda influenced publicity stunt to make people trust these companies with their private information.


TS Maniac
Remember the backdoor windows had... That went great. Encryption means security, a backdoor is a security vulnerability. On one hand government is requiring their agencies to use encryption and on the other they want to stop citizens from using it. Any back door will be discovered by those wanting to exploit it. It's already difficult enough to secure a system, now how to secure a system with a secret backdoor, one those in charge of security will not even know about, good luck.