Der Spiegel is reporting that the German Ministry for Internal Affairs is planning to require all Internet message service providers be able to provide unencrypted copies of messages if requested.
This is, of course, not new. The Crypto Wars started in the 1990s with Phil Zimmerman and PGP and continues to this day. A few years ago the FBI got into a fight with Apple after the San Bernadino shootings and lost.
But politicians are not stopping.
Maybe what is going on in Germany is an edge case, but we should not assume that.
If end to end encryption is banned (meaning that Whatsapp, iMessage, Signal and a host of other products would be illegal), how would that be enforced?
Would ISPs be required to have access to your computers and phones to detect and remove such products?
Would countries have to implement tech like China’s great firewall (which Russia and other countries are already working on doing)?
Lets assume such a law passes and messaging providers comply. That means that they would have to have the crypto keys needed to decrypt any message. Or the government would.
Given that hackers seem to be winning the war, do you really think that Russia or China would not compromise some Apple or Google employee? Threaten to kill their entire family? Or worse?
Of course, people could install software that was written in countries that didn’t have such a law.
Possibly, the law could say that if you are found in possession of such software they will throw you in jail.
And how do you deal with Steganography – the art of hiding information in photos and other images.
I promise this will not end any time soon.
Unfortunately, we need to educate politicians worldwide about the risks and difficulties of what they are asking for and that won’t be easy because people want to feel safe and that is what politicians think they are offering them. In fact, what they are really doing is increasing risk. Risk to people’s privacy. Risk to people’s healthcare. Risk to people’s finances. Risk to people’s lifestyle.
Just remember that proverb – may you live in interesting times. It is definitely interesting.