MI5 Argues for 'Exceptional Access' to Encrypted Messages

The director general of Britain's Security Service is arguing for "exceptional access" to encrypted messages, in the ongoing battle between authorities and technology companies, reports The Guardian.

MI5 Director warns of exp 008

MI5 head Andrew Parker

MI5's director general has called on technology companies to find a way to allow spy agencies "exceptional access" to encrypted messages, amid fears they cannot otherwise access such communications.

Sir Andrew Parker is understood to be particularly concerned about Facebook, which announced plans to introduce powerful end-to-end encryption last March across all the social media firm's services.

In an ITV interview to be broadcast on Thursday, Sir Andrew Parker says he has found it "increasingly mystifying" that intelligence agencies like his are not able to easily read secret messages of terror suspects they are monitoring.

Parker goes on to say that cyberspace has become an unregulated "Wild West" that is largely inaccessible to authorities, and calls on tech firms to answer the question: "Can you provide end-to-end encryption but on an exceptional basis – exceptional basis – where there is a legal warrant and a compelling case to do it, provide access to stop the most serious forms of harm happening?"

The U.K. government has long argued that encrypted online channels such as WhatsApp and Telegram provide a "safe haven" for terrorists because governments and even the companies that host the services cannot read them.

Tech companies have pushed back against various attempts by authorities to weaken encryption methods, such as the FBI's request that Apple help it hack into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

Apple famously refused to comply with the request, and has since consistently argued against laws that would require tech companies to build so-called "back doors" into their software, claiming that such a move would weaken security for everyone and simply make terrorists and criminals turn to open-source encryption methods for their digital communications.

On the opposing side of the debate, Britain's cybersecurity agency has proposed that if tech companies sent a copy of encrypted messages and the encryption keys to unscramble them when requested following a warrant, this would allow them to prevent terrorists and criminals from operating out of sight without compromising encryption methods.

However, given that encrypted communication services like WhatsApp and Signal do not have access to private keys that would enable them to decrypt messages, a back door would seem the only alternative.

A spokesperson for Privacy International, a technology human rights group, told The Guardian that strong encryption kept communications safe from criminals and hostile governments.

"The reality is that these big tech platforms are international companies: providing access to UK police would mean establishing a precedent that police around the world could use to compel the platforms to monitor activists and opposition, from Hong Kong to Honduras," the spokesperson added.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

Munkypoo7 Avatar
16 months ago
How about no.
Score: 59 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DoctorTech Avatar
16 months ago
The nerve of citizens to think they have a right to communicate with someone else without their government being able to listen in on them... who do they think they are? You know what else would help prevent / solve crimes? Banning curtains and blinds. Just think about how many crimes are committed in homes and hotels around the world because people can do things without being observed. If we give governments the ability to look into everyone's living rooms, bedrooms and offices we could cut down on terrorism and might even catch someone with child porn. It may cost everyone what little is left of their privacy but it would help fight terrorism /s
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
57004 Avatar
16 months ago
Parker goes on to say that cyberspace has become an unregulated "Wild West" that is largely inaccessible to authorities
I would argue the opposite. Intelligence agencies have enjoyed pretty much unlimited access to personal communications like they never had before. The Snowden leaks proved this in detail. They've been grabbing and cataloguing everything for over a decade.

Encryption breaks some of that but it only brings it back to the level it was before.

At least Britain can't push for these measures within Europe any longer.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Winni Avatar
16 months ago
Yes. It's essential that a government and their intelligence agencies can spy on their own people...

Without privacy, there can be no freedom.
And in our digital world, without encryption, there can be no privacy.

"If you have nothing to hide, then you are nothing."
-- Prof. Dr. Shoshana Zuboff
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xnu Avatar
16 months ago
Didn't that building get destroyed in the last Bond movie?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xxray Avatar
16 months ago
This makes me angry. Let’s ask all of these government leaders for a backdoor into their devices.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple watch ecg

Apple Watch Likely to Gain Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, and Blood Alcohol Monitoring

Monday May 3, 2021 4:03 am PDT by
The Apple Watch may gain the ability to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood alcohol levels, according to newly-revealed information about one of Apple's chosen business partners. Apple has been revealed to be the largest customer of the British electronics start-up Rockley Photonics, The Telegraph reports. Rockley Photonics has developed non-invasive optical sensors for...
tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
facebook instargram updated att prompt 1

Facebook and Instagram Ask Users to Enable App Tracking in Order to Keep Services 'Free of Charge'

Sunday May 2, 2021 1:22 pm PDT by
As a way to convince users to enable tracking across other apps and websites, Facebook is deploying the tactic of telling users that they must enable tracking as part of the App Tracking Transparency framework in iOS 14.5 if they want to help keep Facebook and Instagram "free of charge." App Tracking Transparency or ATT is the newest privacy feature to come to iPhone and iPad devices as part ...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature 1

Mini-LED Display Production Improving for Redesigned MacBook Pro Models Later This Year

Monday May 3, 2021 8:33 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMT, a key vendor involved in the production of mini-LED displays in the newly announced 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has been able to address technical challenges for the production of mini-LED displays to be used in the upcoming 14 and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pro models. As reported by DigiTimes, TSMT had initially been facing production constraints with the circuit board and...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Yellow

Kuo: Apple to Launch 8-Inch Foldable iPhone in 2023

Sunday May 2, 2021 8:43 pm PDT by
Apple is working to launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Based on our latest industry survey, we forecast that Apple will likely launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, with SDC as the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry...
iOS 14 on iPhone feature emergency

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.5.1 With Fixes for App Tracking Transparency Bug, WebKit Security Issues

Monday May 3, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.5.1, minor security updates that come just a week after the release of the iOS 14.5 update. There is also a companion watchOS 7.4.1 update for Apple Watch and an iOS 12.5.3 update for older iPhone and iPad devices that don't support Apple's latest operating system versions. According to Apple's release notes, the update fixes a bug with App Tracking...
airtags teardown tile mat galaxy smarttag

iFixit Shares AirTag Teardown Revealing 'Impressively Compact' Design Compared to Tile Mate and Galaxy SmartTag

Sunday May 2, 2021 4:54 am PDT by
iFixit has shared the first of its two-part series in tearing down Apple's AirTag item tracker, revealing that Apple had to make impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including rethinking the speaker layout. For comparison, iFixit compared Apple's AirTag to the Tile Mate and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Compared to the competition, AirTag is the smallest in size, with the...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Brydge's 12.9-Inch iPad Pro Keyboard With Trackpad

Tuesday May 4, 2021 11:48 am PDT by
Brydge has been making keyboards for Apple's iPads for years now, and the newest model, the Brydge 12.9 MAX+, is compatible with the third, fourth, and fifth-generation iPad Pro models, so it works even with the new mini-LED iPad Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we checked out the new Brydge 12.9 MAX+ to see if it's a viable...