UK Marketing Attack on Encryption Diminishes Digital Privacy

ChatMail   |   February 15, 2022

UK Marketing Attack on Encryption Diminishes Digital Privacy

The United Kingdom has a strict data protection regulation to uphold the privacy of its citizens, including the need to use end-to-end encryption for data in transit and at rest. Yet, a contradictory campaign led by the UK Home Office is aimed at social media platforms that plan to use the technology worldwide.

The initiative, dubbed No Place To Hide, is supported by the UK government and more than a dozen charitable organizations. It claims to target Facebook (now under the umbrella of parent company Meta) by preventing the social media platform from adding E2EE on its Messenger app.

However, the implications for this assault on encryption are much broader. If this crusade succeeds, the UK government and law enforcement would be able to get around privacy protections that are in place without asking for legal permission to do so. Cybersecurity experts warn, once opened, backdoors into online platforms can’t prevent other exploits by hackers and spies.

The Medium is the Message

Facebook, and other communication systems like Apple’s iMessage and Google’s Gmail, currently scans photos through a US government system run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Without this process, the campaign proponents assert, millions of suspected online child abuse reports could be lost each year. Meta’s WhatsApp already uses encryption, as do several other popular free apps widely used in the UK.

Meta recently delayed adding encryption by default to the messaging side of both Facebook and Instagram until 2023, according to the company’s head of global safety “to get this right”. Meta already places under-18 users into private or "friends only" accounts by default and restricts adults from messaging them if they aren't already connected. Educating young people with in-app tips on how to avoid unwanted interactions is another method used by Meta to keep them safe.

The problem with this mentality is summarized perfectly by the Center for Democracy & Technology. “Breaking end-to-end encryption to curb objectionable content online is like trying to solve one problem by creating 1,000 more. Insecure communications make users more vulnerable to the crimes we collectively are trying to prevent.”

These attacks on E2EE basically suggest encryption only benefits bad actors, rather than the many ways it keeps data secure for everyone online and keeps communications confidential. The UK is not alone in making this claim, which independent experts and civil libertarians dispute.

Despite complaints the campaign is using scaremongering tactics to show public distrust in encryption, those behind it, including the UK government, are determined to stop all companies from adding layers of protection without ensuring they have easy access to view private communications. This should concern ordinary citizens simply looking to safeguard their own privacy.

Privacy Advocates Warn Against Overstepping

Even compared to Australia’s new digital privacy laws, which try to insert legal backdoors to undermine encryption while maintaining it will remain robust, the UKs determination to associate encryption with child abusers amounts an infringement on its own General Data Protection Regulation policy.

The UK government’s nearly $1-million ad campaign has its detractors. Privacy advocates warn the ad can have precisely the opposite effect of its stated purpose. The Internet Society’s Robin Wilton says, “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.”

Europe’s Government Affairs and Advocacy Manager noted, “If advocacy groups cannot use encrypted messaging, services, and platforms to engage stakeholders and share resources in confidence, they cannot defend human rights in safety. These outcomes could harm the public with communities losing their voice and human rights abuses not brought to light.”

Encryption enables people to message candidly to each other about potentially sensitive topics, from politics to business and more. In other words, encryption is a cornerstone of democracy in a digital society. The list of encryption advocates is long and represents a cross-section of society. For journalists, end-to-end encryption enables safe communication between reporters and their sources. Journalists seek to amplify the voice of marginalized communities, and they can’t get contacts to feel safe without assuring them of secrecy.

Keep Your Privacy Intact

There is a reason why so many developers provide free apps for your phone. They are looking to make money off your personal information. From excessive permissions to sharing user data with marketing companies, it’s impossible to know how your information is stored, shared, or even altered once you download an app.

Even with end-to-end encryption, people need powerful and smart technology to keep them secure. ChatMail phones are designed from the ground up to prioritize security and privacy above all. There is no need to worry about your data being mined by third-party app developers that disrespect your rights. Those products are incompatible with our proprietary technology, eliminating backdoors.

ChatMail is the world’s most secure encrypted cell phone communication service available. Without the vulnerabilities present in free apps, ChatMail gives you PGP chat and so much more on our own custom-developed parsing protocol inspired by the world’s leading cryptographers, but they’re also highly straightforward for everyday users to navigate. People with no expertise in technology can make calls, texts, emails, take pictures, and even conduct group chats easily and securely.

People need protection from hackers and data thieves online, and sometimes even governments. Relying on a service provider that eliminates the risks of smartphones that use third-party apps keeps your data safe from prying eyes. You can trust ChatMail. Engineered for security. Designed for privacy.