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In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks there has been much discussion amongst various European politicians over the role of end-to-end encryption in services like Whatsapp. Our own Prime Minister Theresa May in particular, has called for end-to-end encryption in these services to be removed and backdoor access granted to security agencies and police to monitor the so called ‘safe places’ where terrorists allegedly hide. However, the Internet industry and various security experts have warned that creating backdoor access and storing the data collated would significantly weaken existing encryption and create a serious security concern as it could easily be abused by fraudsters and hackers, leaving innocent users of such services at risk.

In response to the ongoing discussion, the EU’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has now stepped in and announced plans to protect end-to-end encryption across such services by banning proposed backdoor access and promoting the use of end-to-end encryption wherever possible.

“The providers of electronic communications services shall ensure that there is sufficient protection in place against unauthorised access or alterations to the electronic communications data, and that the confidentiality and safety of the transmission are also guaranteed by the nature of the means of transmission used or by state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption of the electronic communications data.”

The document goes on to state “decryption, reverse engineering or monitoring of such communications shall be prohibited” and EU member states shall not demand back doors from communications providers.

This completely goes against the proposed new policies of various EU member states including France and Germany, with German interior minister Thomas de Maizière stating a fortnight ago that he was working on a law to give the German Government the right to decrypt messages. Therein lies the problem the EU will face getting this new law passed – support from its member states who clearly oppose this wholeheartedly.

Whilst we agree with the various Governments that every possible action to stop terrorism needs to be taken, we don’t believe adding backdoor access to encrypted services such as Whatsapp would help in that fight. We agree with the EU that adding backdoor access to end-to-end encryption will only suffice to weaken the security for innocent everyday users and potentially expose their information to hackers and fraudsters. We believe the potential risk of exploitation of innocent users outweighs any potential for good should encryption backdoors be implemented. Similarly, as soon as such access is granted and made public knowledge surely the terrorists will get wise and move their communications elsewhere, making them even harder to track and intercept. That said, we do not believe the EU will be successful in passing this legal protection for encryption – too many member states have opposing views and are calling for similar actions within their own countries. But for now, the encryption row rages on.

Have your say!

What do you think? Should end-to-end encryption be protected or should backdoor access be granted? Will it help fight terrorism and crime or will it expose users to potential fraud? Let us know your opinion with a comment below.

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