If they don’t, the intelligence agencies of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand warn the tech companies could be compelled to do so through legislation. The governments of the countries making up the Five Eyes nations published a memo last week declaring that “privacy is not absolute” and urging the tech giants to create backdoors into their encryption so those governments can access encrypted data to better prevent terrorism and major crimes:
The increasing gap between the ability of law enforcement to lawfully access data and their ability to acquire and use the content of that data is a pressing international concern that requires urgent, sustained attention and informed discussion on the complexity of the issues and interests at stake. Otherwise, court decisions about legitimate access to data are increasingly rendered meaningless, threatening to undermine the systems of justice established in our democratic nations.
The use of encryption in messaging apps and other forms of data storage and communication has skyrocketed since Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations that U.S. intelligence agencies have been compiling data en masse. Since then tech companies have been performing a delicate balancing act, not wanting to appear that it doesn’t take its users’ privacy seriously. Of course, in a world where crime and terrorism are real threats, governments say the improved encryption available to users is hampering their efforts to prevent crime. It now seems, with the publication of the memo, that Five Eyes governments are done playing around. The memo ends with:
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.