In the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine, journalist Mark Frary writes about how new legislation and advances in technology are making it increasingly difficult for journalists and activists to remain anonymous. In this short video, Frary discusses with Madeline Domenichella some of the threats of allowing governments access to encrypted messaging systems.
Encryption is used by messaging apps including WhatsApp to protect the content of a message from being seen by anyone except the sender and recipient. Information is converted into a code and deleted from the server as soon as the message is delivered, making it very difficult for anyone, from app developers to government intelligence agencies, to view the content.
Encryption can benefit journalists and activists because it protects them from potential violence or oppression. However, encryption can also be used to protect terrorists or other criminals who might be plotting dangerous activity through the messaging system. Frary argues that encryption is incredibly important for journalists and activists so they communicate safely.
The investigation into the recent terrorist attack in Westminster found that the attacker, Khalid Masood, used WhatsApp just prior to the start of his rampage on 22 March. This prompted heavy criticism of encryption, and government officials including Home Secretary Amber Rudd have called for these applications to allow government intelligence services to monitor and intercept messages. He adds that creating back doors for the security services would “be exploited”.
As Frary explains, such a back door would have major consequences not just on anonymity and privacy for journalists and activists, but for the privacy of all users.