The Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have released a joint memo in which they urged tech firms to “voluntarily” build backdoors as part of their encryption designs to allow nations “combat serious crimes and threats to national and global security.”
In the memo, the nations acknowledged that encryption is vital to the digital economy and a secure cyberspace, and to the protection of personal, commercial and government information.
Their grievance is that 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.”
According to them, ”privacy is not absolute.” Appropriate government authorities should be able to seek access to otherwise private information when a court or independent authority has authorized such access based on established legal standards, the stated.
The same principles have long permitted government authorities to search homes, vehicles, and personal effects with valid legal authority, they argued.
“The increasing gap between the ability of law enforcement to lawfully access data and their ability to acquire and use the content of that data is a pressing international concern that requires urgent, sustained attention and informed discussion on the complexity of the issues and interests at stake,” the memo read.
Otherwise, court decisions about legitimate access to data are increasingly rendered meaningless, threatening to undermine the systems of justice established in our democratic nations, they stated.
The five nations, which call themselves the “Five Eyes,” also stated that their jurisdictions will consider how best to implement the principles of this memo, including obtaining the voluntary cooperation of industry partners.
It is worth noting that the popularity of several digital platforms is based on the perception of privacy afforded by end-to-end encryption. This was the basis of several high profile spats between various governments and tech services providers in recent times, particularity the WhatsApp messaging platform recently acquired by Facebook.