Regarding Theresa May’s proposed internet surveillance initiative in the wake of the terrorist attacks, it might be fortuitous (or at least less problematic) that the UK won’t be part of the EU in a few years. This may be good news for the Brexiteers, because the EU seems to be going in the opposite direction on the internet-related issue. Just recently, Brussels, either despite its terrorist headaches or because of them, has signaled a seismic shift in the security vs. personal privacy issue.
If the EU Parliament has its way, end-to-end security could be mandatory across most of Europe, and the efforts to compel backdoors that would offer guaranteed access to law enforcement would be scrapped. A draft of the proposed legislation ensures that the “confidentiality and safety” of the user’s data is “guaranteed,” and with it backdoors that could weaken security, and thus compromise privacy, will be banned.
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As a result, there is the likelihood of a conflict between the EU and countries that aren’t so fond of encryption – primarily the UK. After all, it’s not likely that special apps allowing backdoors and weakening encryption would be developed only for Great Britain. However, the implications would reverberate beyond Europe, to places such as the US.
In the US, the notion of weakening encryption and allowing backdoors for law enforcement is gaining traction. It is believed that President Trump leans in this direction, as well as Republican-controlled Congress. More worrisome for privacy advocates is that there seems to be bi-partisan support for banning airtight encryption, as key Senate Democrat, Diane Feinstein (D-CA), is a proponent of it.
Their opponents would merely point across the pond to the economic engine of the EU, which by then may have already legislated in favor of strong end-to-end encryption and no backdoor access, and remind the legislators and the companies that donate to them that there would be economic consequences of conflicting with Europe. With American eyes already focused on the 2018 Congressional mid-term elections, incumbents and office-seekers have to tread carefully on this thorny issue.
The divide between the two sides is so stark and striking that one must consider if the proposed EU measure is not deliberately designed to tweak the nose of the UK – as the first salvo in what is probably going to be a contentious, messy divorce – almost like a punishment. In any event, I for one find the EU Parliament’s posture a bit puzzling, even as I favor it. I mean, there have been myriad terrorist attacks in Europe just over the past year, and security, in general, has been tightened across the board.
Maybe, though, legislators are finally getting the message that weakening encryption and providing backdoors for some (law enforcement) is to provide access for all (the terrorists and cybercriminals). Perhaps they think that enough information is already being collected; it just must be used more effectively and judiciously. One can only hope.