Messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption on private messaging services have opposed UK Bill Ending proposed legislation, saying it poses risk to privacy and safety of every users.
WhatsApp, Session, Signal, Element, Threema, Viber and Wire have signed an open letter against the Online Safety Bill, stating that “the law could give an unelected official the power to weaken the privacy of billions of people around the world”.
They urged the government to roll back the misguided parts of this law that would make people in the UK and around the world less safe.
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, the tech firms said.
They recalled that end-to-end encryption is one of the strongest possible defenses against threats such as online fraud, scams and data theft.
“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,” reads the letter.
It said the Bill provided 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.
“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.”
It said the United Nations had also 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”.
Global providers of end-to-end encrypted products and services could not weaken the security of their products and services to suit individual governments, the companies said.
“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,” it concluded.