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Privacy protection amendments for encrypted messages added to UK bill

Messaging apps on phone

The UK government has amended its Online Safety Bill, designed to protect children so that it gives more respect for people’s privacy. Under the bill, the government wants to give powers to Ofcom to access encrypted messages. However, the new amendment, according to a report, should be submitted to Ofcom by an expert before it decides to access people’s messages.

While several stakeholders, such as children’s charities have pushed for more power being given to Ofcom, privacy advocates have said the ability to read encrypted messages could be dangerous. By needing a report to be written up first, it shows the government is looking for a more balanced approach to the matter.

According to the BBC, the report will have to cover the impact of scanning on freedom of expression and privacy. It will also have to outline if Ofcom can do its investigation with less intrusive technologies.

If the report couldn’t offer up any less intrusive methods, then the bill would allow Ofcom to scan messages where it thought it’d be necessary. Privacy advocates are not likely to be happy with anything less than no reading of encrypted messages but the report does add more of a balance to the bill.

According to children’s charities, criminals are using encrypted messaging tools to send child abuse content to their networks. They say that this lets criminals ‘operate with impunity’ so Ofcom needs powers to read messages.

One of the most popular encrypted messaging apps, Signal, is just one of the several companies that are against breaking encryption, Apple is another. If the measures aren’t changed, Signal president Meredith Whittaker says tech firms would have to run ‘government-mandated scanning services on their devices’.

Let us know in the comments, do you fall on the side of the children’s charities or the privacy campaigners. Do you think this amendment strikes a fair balance? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Parliament UK via BBC News

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