Experts Hit Back at Rudd’s ‘Cheap’ WhatsApp Shot
Rights groups, former military bosses and law enforcers have dismissed the home secretary’s attack on end-to-end encryption, claiming she already has some of the most sweeping surveillance powers of any state at her disposal.
Amber Rudd took to the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday to criticize firms like WhatsApp and Facebook, which use encryption to secure messages for their users, as aiding terrorists.
“We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” she said, branding it “completely unacceptable” that the authorities can’t access messages on these services in emergencies.
It emerged that Westminster attacker Khalid Masood may have used WhatsApp moments before he killed four people outside the Houses of Parliament last week.
However, experts have been quick to dismiss Rudd’s calls.
The Ministry of Defence’s former cybersecurity boss, major general Jonathan Shaw, accused her of using the tragedy to impose her political will on others. He argued that terrorists will simply move on to other more secure methods of communication.
“The problem will mutate and move on. We are aiming at a very fluid environment here. We are in real trouble if we apply blunt weapons to this, absolutist solutions,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, Brian Paddick – a former deputy assistant commissioner at the Met – argued that what Rudd is calling for is “neither a proportionate nor an effective response”.
Meanwhile, Open Rights Group executive director, Jim Killock, branded Rudd’s words nothing more than “cheap rhetoric”.
The Investigatory Powers Act already provides the home secretary with the theoretical ability to enforce a “Technical Capability Notice” – which could be used to persuade tech firms to create backdoors, he claimed.
“The striking thing is that if she was genuinely serious about her suggestion, she would not be making public demands; she would be signing legal orders to force companies to change their products. She would not be telling us about this,” Killock added.
“We should use Amber Rudd’s cheap rhetoric as a launch pad to ask ourselves why she has such sweeping powers, and what the constraints really amount to.”