Encrypted messaging services sign open letter against UK Online Safety Bill

Encrypted messaging services including WhatsApp, Signal and Element have signed an open letter opposing the UK Online Safety Bill ahead of its final reading in the House of Lords.

The platforms argue the Bill could undermine end-to-end encryption – the privacy technology these companies provide – which is the most robust level of security as nobody other than the sender and intended recipient can read the message information.

The co-founder and chief executive of Element, Matt Hodgson, said his company’s ability to serve customers was under threat by the Bill, arguing that the undermining of encryption puts everyone at risk.

File photo dated 03/01/18 of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp, displayed on a mobile phone screen
The tech companies argue the Bill could undermine end-to-end encryption – the most robust level of security (Yui Mok/PA)

“The UK wants its own special access into end-to-end encrypted systems,” he said.

“Bad actors don’t play by the rules. Rogue nation states, terrorists, and criminals will target that access with every resource they have.

“(The Online Safety Bill) is outright dangerous. It’s the cyber equivalent of Britain decommissioning its nuclear deterrent.

“OSB fails to be aware of decentralised communication (both Element and Matrix are decentralised), so there’s no legislation around ‘self-hosted’ deployments.

“It also fails to consider server-free (peer-2-peer) architecture and non-internet based (mesh, bluetooth etc) connectivity.”

The Online Safety Bill has been working its way through Parliament since being published in draft form in May 2021.

It is designed to help clamp down on online trolling and illegal forms of pornography by placing more responsibility on the platforms that internet users use.

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