Apple, Google, WhatsApp disagreed to eavesdrop on encrypted messages

WhatsApp, Google, Microsoft, Liberty and Privacy International, Apple and other 43 companies have criticized the UK intelligence agency’s proposal to listen or read the encrypted messages of users in a letter, which says that it would threaten the privacy and trust of users, published in Law fare.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) published the proposal as part in series of essays which does not reflect agenda of agency. The proposal was written by two intelligence official of Britain who wrote that law enforcement should be introduced as ghost to read encrypted messages.

Thus, it means that law enforcement would be to snoop on users conversations without them knowing. According to the presenters of the proposal, this method is not as harmful as current practices of eavesdropping of unenrypted telephone conversations.

The signatories; however, said that this would require to change the settings of encryption in order to hide the ghost key which would erode the users' trust.
"The “ghost key” proposal put forward by GCHQ would enable a third party to see the plain text of an encrypted conversation without notifying the participants. But to achieve this result, their proposal requires two changes to systems that would seriously undermine user security and trust. First, it would require service providers to surreptitiously inject a new public key into a conversation in response to a government demand. This would turn a two-way conversation into a group chat where the government is the additional participant, or add a secret government participant to an existing group chat. Second, in order to ensure the government is added to the conversation in secret, GCHQ’s proposal would require messaging apps, service providers, and operating systems to change their software so that it would 1) change the encryption schemes used, and/or 2) mislead users by suppressing the notifications that routinely appear when a new communicant joins a chat."
National Cyber Security Center’s Ian Levy, one of the writer of the proposal, responded to the criticism that it was “hypothetical” proposal whose aim was to start the discussion on the matter. The writer further said while talking to CNBC that the two would write to engage with interested parties in order to come up with the best solution.


Photo: Matejmo / Getty Images

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