WhatsApp, Other Messaging Apps Sign Open Letter Urging UK Government to Rethink 'Surveillance' Bill

WhatsApp, Signal, and other messaging services have penned an open letter to the British government appealing for it to urgently rethink the Online Safety Bill (OSB), a piece of legislation that would allow regulators to ask the platforms to monitor users in order to identify child abuse images.

Whatsapp Feature
Under the bill, the government could force chat services to apply content moderation policies such as client-side scanning that are impossible to implement without circumventing end-to-end encryption, which ensures that only the user and the person they are communicating with can read or listen to what is sent.

"Around the world, businesses, individuals and governments face persistent threats from online fraud, scams and data theft," reads the letter. "Malicious actors and hostile states routinely challenge the security of our critical infrastructure. End-to-end encryption is one of the strongest possible defenses against these threats, and as vital institutions become ever more dependent on internet technologies to conduct core operations, the stakes have never been higher.

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.

The Bill provides 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 - nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and compromising the privacy of all users.

In short, the Bill poses an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety and security of every U.K. citizen and the people with whom they communicate around the world, while emboldening hostile governments who may seek to draft copy-cat laws.

The open letter is signed by Element chief executive Matthew Hodgson, Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation and Session director Alex Linton, Signal president Meredith Whittaker, Threema chief executive Martin Blatter, Viber chief executive Ofir Eyal, head of WhatsApp Will Cathcart, and Wire chief technical officer Alan Duric.

Last year, Apple abandoned similar controversial plans to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) stored in iCloud Photos. Apple planned to report iCloud accounts with known CSAM image hashes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The plans were criticized by a wide range of individuals and organizations, and Apple ultimately dropped the proposal. "Children can be protected without companies combing through personal data," said Apple at the time. "We will continue working with governments, child advocates, and other companies to help protect young people, preserve their right to privacy, and make the internet a safer place for children and for us all.

Under the U.K. bill, if a messaging service refused to apply the content moderation policies, it could face fines of up to 4 percent of its annual turnover. WhatsApp, Signal, and Proton have already stated that they would halt their encrypted services in the U.K. and pull out of the market if the bill required them to scan user content.

The U.K. government's Online Safety Bill is expected to return to parliament this summer.

Note: Due to the political or social 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.

Popular Stories

Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

10 Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Monday July 8, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models simultaneously, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different – already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
iPhone 15 Pro Cameras

iPhone 17 Pro Max Will Be First Model to Feature Three 48MP Cameras

Thursday July 11, 2024 12:20 am PDT by
Next year's iPhone 17 Pro Max will feature an upgraded 48-megapixel Tetraprism camera for enhanced photo quality and zoom functionality, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In his n-iphone-tetraprism-upgrade-ca62dd37e364">latest investor note published to Medium, Kuo said the key specification change would be a 1/2.6" 48MP CIS sensor, up from the 1/3.1" 12MP sensor expected to be used...
iPhone 16 Pro Front Update Blue

iPhone 16 Pro Rumored to Support 40W Fast Charging and 20W MagSafe

Wednesday July 10, 2024 3:57 am PDT by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max will support 40W wired fast charging and 20W MagSafe charging, claims a rumor currently swirling around China. Right now, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models are capable of up to 27W peak charging speeds with an appropriate USB-C power adapter, while official MagSafe chargers from Apple and authorized third parties can wirelessly charge...
AirPods Pro Beta Firmware

Apple Releases New AirPods Pro 2 Beta Firmware With Support for iOS 18 Features

Tuesday July 9, 2024 11:46 am PDT by
Apple today released a second beta firmware for the AirPods Pro 2, including both the Lightning and USB-C versions. The updated firmware has a build number 7A5244b and it is available to developers at the current time. This is the second firmware update that Apple has released since announcing new AirPods Pro 2 features in June. There are several new features that are coming to the AirPods...
Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID

iPhone 16 Models Rumored to Have Face ID-Related Design Changes

Tuesday July 9, 2024 9:15 am PDT by
iPhone 16 models coming later this year could have some Face ID-related "design changes," supply chain publication DigiTimes said this week. The original source of this information is British newspaper The Telegraph, which six weeks ago reported that Face ID component supplier Coherent was considering selling or repurposing a manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, a small town in...
orka desktop

MacStadium Releases Free Orka Desktop macOS Virtualization Software

Wednesday July 10, 2024 6:55 am PDT by
Mac cloud services provider MacStadium today unveiled Orka Desktop, a free virtualization tool that allows Mac users to create and manage macOS virtual machines locally via an easy-to-use admin panel. Orka users can create or download custom macOS images locally for their own personal use, or to collaborate with team members using a familiar workflow, versioning, audit, and review controls....

Top Rated Comments

5232152 Avatar
16 months ago
Let's illegalize roads. Thieves and robbers use them to drive to their crime scenes and back. Outrageous!
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jennyp Avatar
16 months ago
This has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with the ongoing culture of wanton surveillance in the UK, and a seeming apathy on the part of the British public to care about it. I hope WhatsApp et al pull out in defiance, forcing HM Gov to eventually crawl to a humiliating u-turn.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BvizioN Avatar
16 months ago
Nah, it will fall on deaf ears. With one of the largest surveillance camera system of 7,371,903 CCTV cameras (1 camera for 11 people) the UK government clearly enjoys monitoring it's own citizens.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Steve121178 Avatar
16 months ago

Nah, it will fall on deaf ears. With one of the largest surveillance camera system of 7,371,903 CCTV cameras (1 camera for 11 people) the UK government clearly enjoys monitoring it's own citizens.
Having worked for one of the UK's largest mobile operators in a technical capacity, you'd be horrified if you knew exactly what we had to give the Government access to & what they did with the data/logs etc. And more importantly how they accessed the data willy nilly. Data meaning calls/SMS/email and everything that passed through the network.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
16 months ago
I have never seen so much CCTV as in London so I am not really surprised they want to take it „online“
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kirkster Avatar
16 months ago

Having worked for on of the UK's largest mobile operators in a technical capacity, you'd be horrified if you knew exactly what we had to give the Government access to & what they did with the data/logs etc. And more importantly how they accessed the data willy nilly. Data meaning calls/SMS/email and everything that passed through the network.
Not surprised at all.

Attachment Image
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)