"Real people" don't need fully private and encrypted communications, argues home secretary
Amber Rudd MP - official portrait
Home secretary Amber Rudd has taken her campaign for technology giants to provide 'back doors' into their communications services with claims that "real people" don't need end-to-end encryption.
Secure communications, she added, only benefits terrorists.
Rudd is on a summer tour of Silicon Valley to complain to US technology and internet giants that they're not doing enough to help fight terrorism. She is, according to the BBC, meeting with representatives from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft "and others".
While supporting encryption, on the one hand, she also called for the companies offering encryption technologies to enable governments access to encrypted messages for security services and police.
"We support its place in making sure that we have secure facilities in our daily lives," said Rudd.
She continued: "However, there is a problem in terms of the growth of end-to-end encryption. It's a problem for the security services and for police who are not, under the normal way, under properly-warranted paths, able to access that information.
"We want [technology companies] to work more closely with us on end-to-end encryption, so that where there is particular need, where there is targeted need, under warrant, they share more information with us so that we can access it."
Jim Killock, executive director of UK digital rights campaign Open Rights Group, pointed out that it's not for the home secretary to decide who does (presumably MPs) and doesn't (everyone else) deserve privacy.
"The suggestion that real people do not care about the security of their communications is dangerous and misleading. Some people want privacy from corporations, abusive partners or employers," said Killock.
He added: "Others may be worried about confidential information, or be working in countries with a record of human rights abuses. It is not the home secretary's place to tell the public that they do not need end-to-end encryption."
Killock also warned that Rudd's lack of clarity over exactly what she wants from internet companies risked causing confusion.
"At the moment she sounds like she is asking for the impossible. She must give the public a good idea of the risks she wants to place them under. If WhatsApp turn off or compromise encryption, you can expect criminals to use something else. The people who will suffer are law-abiding citizens who want privacy and security," said Killock.
Rudd is not the first politician to seek to bring an end to secure end-to-end encryption. Russia recently announced a clampdown on virtual private networks (VPNs) and Tor, used to evade government censorship and monitoring.
China, meanwhile, has done likewise, securing the cooperation of technology giants like Apple, which has removed unlicensed VPN apps from its app store in China.