French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is pushing for a global initiative to combat encrypted messaging apps. He argues that terrorists evade detection by discussing their plans using encrypted messages. “Many messages relating to the execution of terror attacks are sent using encryption; it is a central issue in the fight against terrorism,” he told reporters.
Cazeneuve has already discussed his proposals with his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere. They will be meeting in Paris on August 23 in order to put together an EU initiative to deal with encryption. If they have success in getting their proposal accepted in the EU, their next move is to push for a global initiative to deal with the issue. Cazeneuve declined to give any details about his proposals, so it’s not entirely clear if he wants mandatory backdoors, but that is a common proposal being considered by politicians around the world, and it is likely that Cazeneuve is considering it as well.
The French and German ministers may find quite a bit of support for a global initiative, as politicians in other countries have made proposals to combat encryption as well. In America, Senators Burr and Feinstein have drafted a bill which requires companies who implement encryption to be able to decrypt it if served with a court order. That bill has not yet been passed into law, and support for it seems to be waning. Meanwhile, the British House of Commons passed the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is still under consideration by the House of Lords. In its original form, the bill would have required all companies to be able to remove any encryption they implement, but the final version that was passed contains exceptions to that requirement.
While politicians argue that strong encryption is a tool of terrorists and poses a threat to national security, most tech companies and computer security researchers have argued in favor of strong encryption. Computer security specialist Bruce Schneier was among the many that argued the obvious point that undermining strong encryption would put everyone’s privacy at risk. However, he states that it’s not accurate to frame the issue as a trade-off between privacy and security. Strong encryption is a component of good security, he argues, and weakening encryption also weakens security.
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