Five eyes want NZ social media data

Civil liberties groups fear privacy, freedom of expression and trade secrets could be eroded if tech companies are compelled to give up their encrypted data to the government on request.

The New Zealand Government, its Five Eyes security partners plus India and Japan want companies like Facebook to release encrypted data when requested. The reason: to curb online crime.

Signatories from each country have declared their support for end-to-end encryption – but only if they have a way to legally access that information.

Encryption is an ‘existential anchor of trust in the digital world’, and countries shouldn’t try to find ways to exploit that security, they say.

They would like to see legal back doors for law enforcement to use to clamp down on illegal content – so long as these back doors have the appropriate safeguards and oversight.

New Zealand’s Minister for Justice Andrew Little says while encryption plays an important role in protecting personal data it has another side: it is used to hide illicit material such as child pornography or terror communication.

Little – who is also the Minister responsible for both the GCSB and SIS – says the New Zealand government wants to co-operate with tech companies.

In common with his Five Eyes, Indian and Japanese cohorts, he cites research from the WePROTECT Global Alliance – a coalition of countries, tech firms and civil society firms.

WePROTECT claims public social media and communications platforms are the most-used ways of grooming and meeting children online.

In 2018, WePROTECT says the US National Center of Missing and Exploited Children found Facebook Messenger was used in almost 12 million of the 18.4 million reports of child sexual abuse material.

“Measures to increase privacy – including end-to-end encryption – should not come at the expense of children’s safety,” the signatories state.

They think the industry should reconsider encryption that blocks any kind of legal access to content.

Furthermore, they believe technology companies and service providers should take responsibility for detecting and responding to violations, especially regarding the most serious illegal content like exploitation and abuse, violent crime, and terrorist activities.

They say encryption undermines these responsibilities and prevents law enforcement from accessing content in cases where it is lawful and necessary.

Little explains how the backdoor policy would work.

“Governments would demonstrate there is a reasonable cause to suspect there has been criminal offending, so the control is still left in the platform owners, but it gives enforcement authorities the ability to chase up and investigate some of the most heinous criminal offending we’ve ever seen.”

However, these explanations don’t impress Council of Civil Liberties chair Thomas Beagle.

He says the Government’s plea for more access is contradictory and dangerous and privacy will be at stake.

“It talks about the value of encryption – secure information, private conversations, doing things free from repressive governments – and then it talks about how they need to stop all that because they need to access it to stop crime.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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