The U.K. home secretary Amber Rudd has argued that "real people" do not want secure end-to-end encryption on messaging platforms and are more concerned with usability and features than unbreakable security (via Yahoo News).
Rudd made her case in a newspaper article, published ahead of a meeting today with technology companies in San Francisco, where she will warn tech giants that their services are being misused by terrorists. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Rudd said:
"Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family?
"So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption or create so-called 'back doors'.
"Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and 'usability', and it is here where our experts believe opportunities may lie.
"Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security."
Rudd's comments were immediately criticized by privacy campaigners, with civil liberties organization Big Brother Watch calling her viewpoint "at best naïve, at worst dangerous".
"Suggesting that people don't really want security from their online services is frankly insulting," said Renate Samson, chief executive of BBW. "What of those in society who are in dangerous or vulnerable situations, let alone those of us who simply want to protect our communications from breach, hack or cybercrime."
"Once again the government are attempting to undermine the security of all in response to the actions of a few. We are all digital citizens, we all deserve security in the digital space."
Rudd is due to give her speech to tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft, in which she will urge them to do more to remove extremist content online or face new laws forcing them to do so.
Speaking to the BBC, Rudd said she wanted to work more closely with companies on encryption so that "where there is a particular need, where there is a targeted need" the government should be given access to metadata and encrypted content.
But Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, pushed back against that argument, and warned about pushing criminals into even harder to reach parts of the internet.
"If people move off those encrypted services to go to encrypted services in countries that won't share the metadata, the government actually has less information, not more," she said.
Tuesday's summit is the first gathering of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an organization set up by the major tech companies following recent terror attacks. Organization members are likely to resist any action that would result in compromised encryption, however.
In a joint statement, the companies taking part said they were co-operating to "substantially disrupt terrorists' ability to use the internet in furthering their causes, while also respecting human rights".
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