France and Germany Don't Understand Encryption Either

By Tom Pritchard on at

Hardly a day goes by when some government or law enforcement agency has said some things about encryption, and it's often lamenting the fact they can't snoop on encrypted messaging apps. Now France and Germany are joining the fray, calling on the European Union to adopt legislation that forces app companies to make their encrypted messages available to the authorities.

To be more specific, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Germany's Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière have released a joint proposal on the matter. They claim that encrypted messaging apps "constitute a challenge during investigations" by making it more difficult for law enforcement to keep tabs on suspected terrorists. The proposal calls on the European Commission to draft legislation that would force app developers to "remove illicit content" and "decrypt messages" for investigations related to terrorist activity.

Do we really have to go through this shit again?

The proposal is supposedly in response to a spate of terrorist attacks across France and Germany, and the topic of accessing encrypted messages is something law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been arguing about for what seems like forever. This is despite the fact that there is no way of implementing a backdoor that only the authorities will be able to exploit, and that companies consistently maintain that they are unable to decrypt the messages users send each other.

The proposal has already received widespread criticism from experts and privacy advocate groups. Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of technology and human rights at Amnesty International, has said that allowing law enforcement backdoor access "is tantamount to a ban."

Speaking to The Verge, he said that none of the proposed measures would actually deter criminals and terrorists from using encrypted messaging services - citing the wide-range of open source alternatives available online. He feels that trying shut off access to encrypted apps, even though the proposal doesn't mention that outright, is "frankly ridiculous". Elsayed-Ali believes that legislation would only prevent big companies from implementing encryption, and that individuals would still be able to take advantage of it if they wanted to.

So pay attention all you government types. Try and understand what you're talking about, because at this stage you;re just embarrassing yourself with your complete lack of technical knowledge. [French Interior Ministry via The Verge]