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UK government ignites debate over privacy vs. safety


Most technologists understand that end-to-end encryption in messaging keeps people safe and empowers commerce. But the UK government is launching a publicity blitz to have that layer of protection removed.

The decision will affect every nation the UK does business with, including those that still value the right to privacy and free speech.

Privacy versus safety

Rolling Stone reports the UK has developed an emotive ad campaign around child safety to build support for its argument. Of course, this campaign comes nowhere near addressing the threat to free speech, commerce, or privacy in such a move. Naturally, the reaction across most of the tech industry has been a series of shared oaths as people who know about this stuff ask: “Do we have to explain this again?”

Robin Wilton, director of Internet Trust at the Internet Society told Rolling Stone:

“Without strong encryption, children are more vulnerable online than ever. Encryption protects personal safety and national security.… What the government is proposing puts everyone at risk.”

The report also explains that the UK government doesn’t seem to want to address the privacy-versus-security debate. Instead, it simply seeks to inflame reaction with an emotive campaign that raises public support for such a move while utterly ignoring the multitude of arguments against it.

One slide mentioned cites a request that the campaign “must not start a privacy vs. safety debate,” except, of course, that it automatically does. To get some sense of the many nuanced protections provided by encryption, take a look at this clear and comprehensive piece. 

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