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WhatsApp, Signal, and other messaging services have penned an open letter to the British government appealing for it to urgently rethink the Online Safety Bill (OSB), a piece of legislation that would allow regulators to ask the platforms to monitor users in order to identify child abuse images.

Whatsapp-Feature.jpg

Under the bill, the government could force chat services to apply content moderation policies such as client-side scanning that are impossible to implement without circumventing end-to-end encryption, which ensures that only the user and the person they are communicating with can read or listen to what is sent.
"Around the world, businesses, individuals and governments face persistent threats from online fraud, scams and data theft," reads the letter. "Malicious actors and hostile states routinely challenge the security of our critical infrastructure. End-to-end encryption is one of the strongest possible defenses against these threats, and as vital institutions become ever more dependent on internet technologies to conduct core operations, the stakes have never been higher.

As currently drafted, the Bill could break end-to-end encryption, opening the door to routine, general and indiscriminate surveillance of personal messages of friends, family members, employees, executives, journalists, human rights activists and even politicians themselves, which would fundamentally undermine everyone's ability to communicate securely.

The Bill provides no explicit protection for encryption, and if implemented as written, could empower OFCOM to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services - nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and compromising the privacy of all users.

In short, the Bill poses an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety and security of every U.K. citizen and the people with whom they communicate around the world, while emboldening hostile governments who may seek to draft copy-cat laws.
The open letter is signed by Element chief executive Matthew Hodgson, Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation and Session director Alex Linton, Signal president Meredith Whittaker, Threema chief executive Martin Blatter, Viber chief executive Ofir Eyal, head of WhatsApp Will Cathcart, and Wire chief technical officer Alan Duric.

Last year, Apple abandoned similar controversial plans to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) stored in iCloud Photos. Apple planned to report iCloud accounts with known CSAM image hashes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The plans were criticized by a wide range of individuals and organizations, and Apple ultimately dropped the proposal. "Children can be protected without companies combing through personal data," said Apple at the time. "We will continue working with governments, child advocates, and other companies to help protect young people, preserve their right to privacy, and make the internet a safer place for children and for us all.

Under the U.K. bill, if a messaging service refused to apply the content moderation policies, it could face fines of up to 4 percent of its annual turnover. WhatsApp, Signal, and Proton have already stated that they would halt their encrypted services in the U.K. and pull out of the market if the bill required them to scan user content.

The U.K. government's Online Safety Bill is expected to return to parliament this summer.

Article Link: WhatsApp, Other Messaging Apps Sign Open Letter Urging UK Government to Rethink 'Surveillance' Bill
 
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jennyp

macrumors 6502a
Oct 27, 2007
637
275
This has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with the ongoing culture of wanton surveillance in the UK, and a seeming apathy on the part of the British public to care about it. I hope WhatsApp et al pull out in defiance, forcing HM Gov to eventually crawl to a humiliating u-turn.
 

Steve121178

macrumors 603
Apr 13, 2010
6,437
7,109
Bedfordshire, UK
Nah, it will fall on deaf ears. With one of the largest surveillance camera system of 7,371,903 CCTV cameras (1 camera for 11 people) the UK government clearly enjoys monitoring it's own citizens.
Having worked for one of the UK's largest mobile operators in a technical capacity, you'd be horrified if you knew exactly what we had to give the Government access to & what they did with the data/logs etc. And more importantly how they accessed the data willy nilly. Data meaning calls/SMS/email and everything that passed through the network.
 
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Kirkster

Contributor
Jan 19, 2004
135
335
Having worked for on of the UK's largest mobile operators in a technical capacity, you'd be horrified if you knew exactly what we had to give the Government access to & what they did with the data/logs etc. And more importantly how they accessed the data willy nilly. Data meaning calls/SMS/email and everything that passed through the network.
Not surprised at all.
7ggw1f.jpeg
 

nikusak

macrumors regular
Feb 11, 2014
206
614
”client-side scanning that are impossible to implement without circumventing end-to-end encryption”

Uh, everything is always decrypted in the client app because otherwise the user obviously would not be able to read or see the messages.

Client side “scanning”, whatever that means (hash comparisons to known illegal material, AI image recognition, etc.) is not at odds with this technically.

However, automatically reporting the findings to some external party obviously violates E2E.

At some point someone in UK, or EU, proposed “messaging proxies” for these services because now they are impossible to listen to. Only “authorised parties” would have access.

This, of course, is an insane idea.

Criminals will always find alternative apps and services for their dealings as anything related to strong encryption is common knowledge and can’t be banned.
 
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Steve121178

macrumors 603
Apr 13, 2010
6,437
7,109
Bedfordshire, UK
It was all data & records.

In the on-prem server rooms, the Government had their own servers & systems which were syphoning everything off. Their servers were kept in very industrial looking cages so no one else could interfere with them.

Some people would be surprised at what you have to give the Government access to in order to obtain a Telecommunications license.

GCHQ make the NSA look like choirboys. So much so that GCHQ have no problem at all doing a lot of the stuff that's 'off limits' in US law on behalf of the NSA, being the good little lapdogs that they are.
 

patearrings

macrumors regular
Mar 4, 2009
233
158
It was all data & records.

In the on-prem server rooms, the Government had their own servers & systems which were syphoning everything off. Their servers were kept in very industrial looking cages so no one else could interfere with them.

Some people would be surprised at what you have to give the Government access to in order to obtain a Telecommunications license.

GCHQ make the NSA look like choirboys. So much so that GCHQ have no problem at all doing a lot of the stuff that's 'off limits' in US law on behalf of the NSA, being the good little lapdogs that they are.
This would be avoided by people using a VPN though right? All the telecoms company sees is the deivce connected to an IP in a different country which then goes into an encrypted tunnel?
 
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beanbaguk

macrumors 65816
Mar 19, 2014
1,358
2,380
Europe
It was all data & records.

In the on-prem server rooms, the Government had their own servers & systems which were syphoning everything off. Their servers were kept in very industrial looking cages so no one else could interfere with them.

Some people would be surprised at what you have to give the Government access to in order to obtain a Telecommunications license.

GCHQ make the NSA look like choirboys. So much so that GCHQ have no problem at all doing a lot of the stuff that's 'off limits' in US law on behalf of the NSA, being the good little lapdogs that they are.
I used to work in a certain mobile carrier data warehouses on behalf of a certain server platform organization. My job was to install monitoring software to manage and pre-empt hardware and software failures.

It was my job at the time to audit the installation, and patching of this software to the servers and ensure all the communication checks signed off.

I will never forget it when I identified server units that didn't have the software installed. When I raised it with the WHW Manager, he told me they didn't exist. So, I physically took him to the servers and he said again. These systems do not exist. Another colleague told me not to bring them up again as they were used for surveillance monitoring.

I was only young at the time, but 🤯
 

Unami

macrumors 65816
Jul 27, 2010
1,364
1,568
Austria
This is clearly a case where popular messengers like imessage, signal, whatsapp, fb-messenger and telegram should pull out of the UK to show their weight - and that you can't trust any messenger that would still be available.

This is what you get when you advocate for more government meddling in business operations, it was never going to stop at side loading, charge ports, or what gets shipped in the box.

Idk, the same could be said about regulating electrical safety of devices or emergency call standards. I think we need a more finely grained argumentation, depending on the case.
 
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zahuh

macrumors regular
Oct 22, 2004
219
1,474
This is ALL Apple's fault for letting them know this is possible. Before they were under the assumption everything was encrypted and impossbile to read. What a HUGE screw up
 
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one more

macrumors 601
Aug 6, 2015
4,543
5,714
Earth
It is like Apple’s own CSAM plans all over again. The governments approach this (and many other issues) from the wrong end. There are more efficient ways of protecting children and other vulnerable parts of population without sacrificing people’s freedom and privacy.
 

4odomi

Cancelled
Jan 19, 2018
1,203
1,218


WhatsApp, Signal, and other messaging services have penned an open letter to the British government appealing for it to urgently rethink the Online Safety Bill (OSB), a piece of legislation that would allow regulators to ask the platforms to monitor users in order to identify child abuse images.

Whatsapp-Feature.jpg

Under the bill, the government could force chat services to apply content moderation policies such as client-side scanning that are impossible to implement without circumventing end-to-end encryption, which ensures that only the user and the person they are communicating with can read or listen to what is sent.
The open letter is signed by Element chief executive Matthew Hodgson, Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation and Session director Alex Linton, Signal president Meredith Whittaker, Threema chief executive Martin Blatter, Viber chief executive Ofir Eyal, head of WhatsApp Will Cathcart, and Wire chief technical officer Alan Duric.

Last year, Apple abandoned similar controversial plans to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) stored in iCloud Photos. Apple planned to report iCloud accounts with known CSAM image hashes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The plans were criticized by a wide range of individuals and organizations, and Apple ultimately dropped the proposal. "Children can be protected without companies combing through personal data," said Apple at the time. "We will continue working with governments, child advocates, and other companies to help protect young people, preserve their right to privacy, and make the internet a safer place for children and for us all.

Under the U.K. bill, if a messaging service refused to apply the content moderation policies, it could face fines of up to 4 percent of its annual turnover. WhatsApp, Signal, and Proton have already stated that they would halt their encrypted services in the U.K. and pull out of the market if the bill required them to scan user content.

The U.K. government's Online Safety Bill is expected to return to parliament this summer.

Article Link: WhatsApp, Other Messaging Apps Sign Open Letter Urging UK Government to Rethink 'Surveillance' Bill
The Bill is aimed at fighting organised crime and terrorism, which is rampant now on apps like WhatsApp, so the intention is good, however totally wrong for 90% of law abiding people, as far as I'm concerned, this isn't a chat platform, it's a messaging service and it should be private and secure!. Aside from that content, moderation has no place in a free society and yet Facebook & Twitter and even here on Macroumers have been doing it for years for political reasons, so how come no one is up in arms about that?
 
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SanderEvers

macrumors 6502
Jan 27, 2010
387
1,028
Netherlands
It is like Apple’s own CSAM plans all over again. The governments approach this (and many other issues) from the wrong end. There are more efficient ways of protecting children and other vulnerable parts of population without sacrificing people’s freedom and privacy.

This goes a lot further than Apple's CSAM plans ever did.
 
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