Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s personal mission to rid the world of privacy took a rather ugly turn yesterday. Writing for the Telegraph while visiting Silicon Valley to address the world’s top technology firms – including Facebook and Google – Rudd inexplicably claimed that ‘real people’ do not need, nor care about, security features that stop the government and criminals reading their messages.
"Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security. So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption and create so called 'back doors'," she wrote. "Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family?"
Strong reaction to Rudd’s comments has already flown in from all corners, ranging from human right’s groups to partners in the technology Channel. The Open Rights Group said Rudd's claims were ‘dangerous’.
"The suggestion that real people do not care about the security of their communications is dangerous and misleading," said Jim Killock, the group's executive director. "Some people want privacy from corporations, abusive partners or employers. Others may be worried about confidential information, or be working in countries with a record of human rights abuses. It is not the Home Secretary’s place to tell the public that they do not need end-to-end encryption.
"Amber Rudd must be absolutely clear on what co-operation she expects from Internet companies. She is causing immense confusion because at the moment she sounds like she is asking for the impossible. She must give the public a good idea of the risks she wants to place them under.”
And this is not the first time that Rudd has announced her disregard of encryption. Following the London Bridge terrorist attack, Rudd urged firms to build a back-door for Government access. However, internet security firms slammed the suggestion of removing end-to-end encryption, calling it a ‘waste of time and money’.
Avast security expert Tony Anscombe said the encryption is the ‘best defence’ against data misuse and is the ‘backbone of democracy. “Banning encryption in order to get to the communications of a select few opens the door to the communications of many, and renders us all less secure and our lives less private,” he said. “If you build a backdoor, it’s there for everybody to access. And if you store that data you collect, even in encrypted form, how secure is it? All these data breaches we hear about show our privacy is regularly being breached by hackers, so the action suggested by the home secretary would only open us all up to further invasions of privacy.”