Sunday, 02 September 2018 06:20

Five Eyes govts issue warning to firms on encryption Featured

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The governments of the Five Eyes countries — the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — have warned tech companies that they must voluntarily enable access to products sold in these five countries, else they will be forced to do so in cases deemed necessary.

The warning was contained in a Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption and was part of a lengthy declaration issued after a meeting of ministers from the five countries in the Gold Coast on 28 and 29 August.

"The governments of the Five Eyes encourage information and communications technology service providers to voluntarily establish lawful access solutions to their products and services that they create or operate in our countries," the statement said.

"Governments should not favour a particular technology; instead, providers may create customised solutions, tailored to their individual system architectures that are capable of meeting lawful access requirements. Such solutions can be a constructive approach to current challenges.

"Should governments continue to encounter impediments to lawful access to information necessary to aid the protection of the citizens of our countries, we may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions."

The Australian Government released a draft of a bill on 14 August, which includes similar language.

It left open the door for enforcement agencies to use specific cracks to gain access to encrypted communications on specific devices.

Representatives of technology companies were invited to last week's meeting but did not attend.

In the main communique issued after the meeting, the five governments said: "Encryption is vital to the digital economy, a secure cyberspace and the protection of personal, commercial and government information.

"The five countries have no interest or intention to weaken encryption mechanisms. We recognise, however, that encryption, including end-to-end encryption, is also used in the conduct of terrorist and criminal activities.

"The inability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to lawfully access encrypted data and communications poses challenges to law enforcement agencies' efforts to protect our communities.

"Therefore, we agreed to the urgent need for law enforcement to gain targeted access to data, subject to strict safeguards, legal limitations, and respective domestic consultations."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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