Amber Rudd has hit out at ‘patronising’ technology experts, in a bizarre interview that will have those very same experts simultaneously scoffing into their cornflakes and shaking in their boots. While the Home Secretary openly admitted that she doesn’t understand the technology behind encryption services such as WhatsApp, she reiterated her aim to ‘combat’ the technology.
Rudd – along with prime minister Theresa May – has repeatedly suggested banning apps like WhatsApp or adding in a back door to encryption services. In fact, Rudd went so far as saying that ‘normal people do not care about or need encryption’, earlier in the year, after it emerged that a number of terror attacks were co-ordinated via WhatsApp.
Her calls to outlaw encryption were met by strong opposition from security and technology experts. Alec Muffett, technical advisor for the Open Rights Group (who previously worked at Facebook) said that the government would be ‘wasting time and money’ by seeking a ban, while other experts bemoaned the loss of privacy that Rudd’s suggestions implied.
But Rudd has now hit back, saying that she ‘doesn’t need’ to understand encryption ‘to understand how it’s helping criminals’. Rudd said at a Conservative Party conference event: "I don't need to understand how encryption works to understand how it's helping – end-to-end encryption – the criminals. I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that".
"It's so easy to be patronised in this business," she said. "We will do our best to understand it. We will take advice from other people but I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right."