Big push for breaking encryption
The countries - led by the US but including the UK, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand - have joined with India and Japan in issuing a statement calling for legal access to otherwise secured content.
Australia has taken a lead in this by already introducing legislation that requires software providers to hand over content when asked - to the dismay of companies like WhatsApp, Apple and other messaging platforms which neither have nor want access to content being shared by their users.
In the past the argument in favour of such access has always been based on terrorist activity. Indeed, since the September 11 attacks in the US, the tussle between tech and law enforcement has been growing ever more fierce. The Boston bombing, in particular, is held up as an example of big tech refusing to abide by law enforcement requirements to allow access to messages and other forms of content.
This time round, however, it is child abuse which is being held up as the reason behind the need, according to the statement.
"In 2018, Facebook Messenger was responsible for nearly 12 million of the 18.4 million worldwide reports of CSAM [child sexual abuse material to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)]. These reports risk disappearing if end-to-end encryption is implemented by default, since current tools used to detect CSAM [child sexual abuse material] do not work in end-to-end encrypted environments," says the report.
It isn't clear how the tech giants are supposed to provide such backdoor access - the Australian legislation simply requires that it be done - but the tech companies are again pointing out that breaking end-to-end encryption is a bad idea as it allows other non-authorised users access and leads to a lack of trust in existing encrypted services which include everything from messaging to email to watching television and ecommerce.
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