Member countries of the Five Eyes signals intelligence alliance last week released a joint statement urging technology companies to voluntarily provide a mechanism for government authorities to review encrypted communications when investigating criminal and terror threats.
Presenting a set of principles agreed to by the attorneys general and interior Ministers of the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the notification warns companies that if they withhold cooperation, the five jurisdictions may individually “pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions.”
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs officially published the statement on behalf of its fellow members of Five Eyes, officially known as the 2018 Five Country Ministerial.
The advent of encryption has become a major thorn in the side of law enforcement officials who increasingly find themselves unable to examine content that’s been digitally transmitted by suspects. The statement notes that the “diminished access” to lawfully obtained data is “not just an issue for Governments alone, but a mutual responsibility for all stakeholders.”
On the other hand, digital rights advocates worry that allowing governments access to protected communications could invade law-abiding citizens’ privacy and in some cases even endanger them. Five Eyes members attempted to address those concerns in their joint document, noting that any assistance requested from tech providers should be “underpinned by the rule of law and due process protections.” The governments also said that tech companies should be free to develop solutions of their own choosing to provide authorities with lawful access.
The Five Eyes also issued a separate “Statement on Countering the Illicit Use of Online Spaces,” which encourages the tech industry to institute new solutions prevent and quickly remediate the publishing of illegal, terrorist and extremist content, as well as disinformation used to sow division within democratic nations