Tag Archives: online safety bill

Snooping on our WhatsApp is a step too far

We rely on private and secure messaging services to keep our personal information and correspondence safe. Privacy is essential in many situations. Whether we’re communicating with a loved one, seeking advice on a sensitive situation, or sharing pictures on the family WhatsApp group. For some people such as journalists, whistle-blowers, or the Ukrainians fighting Russia it can be a matter of life or death. The ability for people to communicate privately is a human right and a long-standing cornerstone at the foundation of Liberal Democracy and Western values.

Government ministers and the security services make no secret that they want to spy on your private messages and WhatsApp groups. Our last Home Secretary vocally opposed Meta’s intention to make Facebook messenger DMs encrypted by default.  Default end-to-end encryption is important as it means people can’t spy on your messages. Sadly this is not a new trend. Brian Paddock previously sounded the alarm when another Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd was looking to take the same draconian approach.

Being able to message someone privately and securely keeps us safe, yet it is being put at risk by a bill that incorrectly claims to promote safety. It asks companies that provide services such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram, to monitor the content of messages. It also empowers OFCOM to compel providers of user-to-user messaging services to run accredited software to scan, detect and report instances of CSEA or terrorism.

The Online Safety Bill doesn’t explain how this might technically work, most likely it would involve something called ‘client-side scanning’. This is where software is installed on every device and scans your private messages before they are sent. The Open Rights Group has stated this amounts to installing a ‘spy in the pocket’ of every mobile phone user. Any messages the software ‘thinks’ contains prohibited material could be either blocked and/or reported automatically to authorities. This sort of software will certainly lead to false accusations as happened recently when Google reported a man to the Police. 

Recently we saw an example of someone’s private messages being used against them when private messages on Facebook were handed over to the Police to assist in prosecuting a Woman in an abortion case. This highlights the risk women in the US could face if more states move to criminalise abortion. What happens if we see a similar erosion of women’s right to choose here in the UK?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • Alex Macfie
    The Lib Dems were able to take votes from the Tories in the Charles Kennedy era while positioning the party as more radical than Labour. Radicalism doesn't mean...
  • Bradley Nelson
    A second house has to be wholly elected for me, if we’re campaigning to reform HoL based on the democratic deficit, you can’t keep the spirituals and heredi...
  • Tom Harney
    There is a clear need in my opinion for a campaign on changing the electoral system. As a party we have very limited resources so the place to start is with our...
  • Nonconformistradical
    "They do not recognise the “communities” represented by the 14 “local” AMs" A crucial point - echoed across the country with every boundary change. ...
  • Peter Davies
    No. What confused them was the two ballot papers (along with the separate mayoral one). They do not recognise the "communities" represented by the 14 "local" A...