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article imageEuropean Union mulls making end-to-end encryption mandatory

By James Walker     Jun 20, 2017 in Technology
The European Parliament has proposed that end-to-end encryption should be used to protect all forms of online communication. The legislation would outlaw "backdoors" in software and seek to extend the digital privacy rights of EU citizens.
End-to-end encryption is already widely used in the technology space. Secure messaging apps such as WhatsApp have used the feature as a main selling point.
End-to-end encryption relies on a key-based mechanism to protect data. When it's properly implemented, nobody except the intended recipient of the data can read it. This includes the manufacturer of the software.
As the BBC reports, the European Parliament unveiled draft legislation this week that would see end-to-end encryption be enforced on all "current and future means of communication." Examples include online chat applications, email, Internet phone calls and general use of the web. The integrity of the encryption would be maintained by more legislation that bans the implementation of backdoors inside communication apps.
The proposal has been welcomed by proponents of security technology. However, it's likely to meet with fierce criticism from nations generally opposed to encryption.
End-to-end encryption helps you to stay safe online but it has also been repeatedly cited as a key enabler of terrorism. Because messages cannot be decrypted, many governments have expressed concern that end-to-end protected apps are giving terrorists a "hiding place" online.
In particular, the UK's leadership has recently stepped up its fight against encryption. With the Brexit negotiations only just underway, the UK's involvement with the EU can't be predicted going forward.
Even after it leaves the block, the UK is likely to be troubled by the proposals though. In the wake of several major terror attacks in the past few months, Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to make tech companies do more to let law enforcement access encrypted data. Last year, the UK passed the so-called "Snooper's Charter" into law, giving internal policing and anti-terrorism agencies extensive domestic surveillance capabilities.
Amid intense criticism of the growing role of end-to-end encryption, the EU's proposals have been received as a breath of fresh air in an increasingly controversial battleground. It's obvious that the idea won’t be popular in every region though.
Governments are demanding compromise solutions that let them access data on request with a special backdoor. However, implementing this kind of system defeats the point of using end-to-end encryption. Critics note that hackers could use the backdoor to obtain malicious access to the network.
Opponents have also warned that terrorists will continue to find ways to hide their activities online, even if encryption is banned. While a government could seek to outlaw the practice, there's nothing to stop a devoted attacker from creating their own encrypted communication channels.
More about Encryption, endtoend encryption, backdoors, European union, European parliament
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