UK:Urges access to users’ online encrypted messages

This file photo shows some of the most popular online messaging platforms for smartphones.

UK spy agencies should be able to access encrypted content in online messaging applications to prevent terrorist attacks, says British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, warning that terrorists are hiding behind some of the most popular apps.

According to reports, Khalid Masood, the man behind the recent terror attack in London, had communicated with unknown parties through WhatsApp messenger two minutes before his assault that killed 4 people and wounded 50 others.

In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Rudd said it was “completely unacceptable” that terrorists have found a “place to hide” using these applications.

“It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide,” she said.

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” the secretary added.

Rudd said tech companies in charge of applications like the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which use end-to-end encryption, have a “responsibility” to hand over user messages upon government’s request.

“We have to have a situation where we can have our security services get into the terrorists’ communications. That’s absolutely the case,” she argued.

“These people have families, have children as well – they should be on our side,” Rudd further said of app developers, calling on Facebook, Google and Telegram owners to step up cooperation.

Echoing Rudd’s comments was Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said in a Sunday Times article that internet companies should come up with software that detect and remove extreme material.

Corbyn warns against ‘unaccountable’ access

In reaction to the remarks by Rudd and Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised concern over giving too much access to spying agencies.

“I’ve been concerned about giving too much unaccountable power to anybody in our society, so could the security services go to court and make an application? I would have thought they probably could,” said the opposition
leader, urging a balance between the “right to know” and “the right to privacy.”
Lib Dems did not like the idea either, with home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick saying that the government would play into the hands of terrorists by “implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties.”

By Africafrique and agencies

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