UK Home Secretary Says 'Real People' Don't Need Encryption

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United Kingdom Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Monday wrote that "real people" don't need to use end-to-end encryption to protect their online communications, consequently prompting criticism from a number of privacy advocacy groups in the country. In an opinion piece published by The Telegraph earlier this week, Rudd argued that ordinary people don't need to take such aggressive measures to protect their online privacy, adding that tech companies around the world should be more forthcoming to the idea of collaborating with UK authorities and helping them identify terrorists who use their communications solutions. Rudd stated that the government isn't working toward the goal of banning encryption in the country like some critics previously claimed but is instead seeking to incentivize social media platforms and instant messaging (IM) services to cooperate with UK intelligence agencies in an effort to combat online extremists and capture terrorists.

Rudd also wrote that encryption limits the government's ability to stop terrorist attacks, a notion that some of her political opponents and privacy advocacy groups labeled as false, dishonest, and misleading. Nonetheless, Rudd insists that most "real people" aren't actively seeking to encrypt their communications, adding how the average user is naturally more inclined to opt for a service with a friendly interface that's designed in a straightforward and intuitive manner, which virtually all of the most popular IM apps on the planet are. Those services are now all enabling end-to-end encryption by default, which Rudd believes is hurting the administration's efforts to catch terrorists online while not fulfilling a specific demand from the majority of users.

The list of platforms that are now being pressured by the UK to stop enabling encryption by default includes WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned service that's been at the center of Rudd's efforts to popularize the idea that encryption helps terrorists. Her critics claim that extremists would simply switch to another platform if WhatsApp was to start collaborating with the UK government, whereas Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently even argued that scrapping encryption would help terrorists. Rudd is currently in talks with senior executives of YouTube, Google, Microsoft, and a number of other tech companies in the United States as the Home Secretary is looking to place them under additional pressure to support the UK's online fight against terrorism.

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