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Stop pushing for backdoors: Encrypted messenging must stay secure.

The German Ministry of the Interior wants to force WhattsApp, Threema and Apple to decrypt encrypted messages. But a backdoor for the "good guys" only is impossible.

2019-05-29
Encrypted messenging is on the rise, particularly since WhattsApp and iMessage encrypt all messages by default. But the authorities all over the world keep pushing for encryption backdoors, ignoring the fact that this would substantially harm everybody's security. Now the the conversative Politician Horst Seehofer (CSU) wants to force WhattsApp, Threema and Apple to implement backdoors. The cryptowar continues, and we have to keep fighting for our right to privacy and security.

Back in 2014 Germany wanted to become the encryption site number 1, now the interior ministry has different plans. Seehofer, the German Secretary of the Interior, wants to force encrypted messenger service like WhatsApp, Threema, Signal, Wire, Telegram, and Apple's iMessages to decrypt messages for the German authorities upon request.

Longing for decrypted messages like SMS

In the past, authorities could easily get access to plain text information about text messages (SMS) and phone calls from the telecommunicaiton provider. Nowadays, messages - and sometimes even calls - are encrypted when using services like WhattsApp and Signal. The providers don't have access to the encrypted messages - and don't want access.

The authorities claim that criminals, extremists and terrorist would abuse this privacy and, therefore, an option to monitor encrypted messenges would be necessary. However, the credo that we need more surveillance is wrong.

Backdoor for the "good guys" only is impossible

With Seehofer's draft for the new law, he pretends that it is not mass surveillance because the authorities would still need a warrant to decrypt encrypted messenges of suspected criminals. However, this does not change the fact that Seehofer is asking for a general backdoor.

Security experts aroung the world conclude that any encryption backdoor destroys online security. Or, as the linked articles states: "By demanding backdoors to encryption, Politicians are not asking us to choose between security and privacy. They are asking us to choose no security."

No security gained if law passes

While it is highly unlikely that the German Constitutional Court would allow such a privacy-infringing law, the consequences would not be more security, but less. Because in the end such a law would

  • signal to users that their apps can't be trusted anymore,
  • warn criminals to use different apps,
  • lead to an attractive target for (state) hackers - as a backdoor for the "good guys" only does not exist,
  • be an example for autocrat, who also want to monitor the opposition.

All this sound like a very similar fight that Apple had with the US authorities back in 2016. This shows that companies fight to protect their users' data - and rightly so.

Today, an increasingly numnber of law-abiding citizens understand why protecting their right to privacy is important, particularly online. No company will undermine their central promise of security and privacy because of the German Minister Seehofer.

Mr. Seehofer should stop demanding backdoors to encryption, and instead, work hard to make Germany the encryption site Number one.