An international network of intelligence agencies has told the tech industry that ‘privacy is not an absolute’ and that the use of end-to-end encryption ‘should be rare’ …
The statement on privacy contains a veiled threat to tech companies that they may face legislation if they don’t take steps to ensure that they can allow access to ‘appropriate government authorities.’
Privacy laws must prevent arbitrary or unlawful interference, but privacy is not absolute […] The increasing gap between the ability of law enforcement to lawfully access data and their ability to acquire and use the content of that data is a pressing international concern […]
Each of the Five Eyes jurisdictions will consider how best to implement the principles of this statement, including with the voluntary cooperation of industry partners. Any response, be it legislative or otherwise, will adhere to requirements for proper authorization and oversight.
The documents acknowledge the importance of encryption, but effectively argue that end-to-end encryption should not be made routinely available for messaging.
Encryption is vital to the digital economy, a secure cyberspace and the protection of personal, commercial and government information. The five countries have no interest or intention to weaken encryption mechanisms. We recognise, however, that encryption, including end-to-end encryption, is also used in the conduct of terrorist and criminal activities […]
Governments should recognize that the nature of encryption is such that that there will be situations where access to information is not possible, although such situations should be rare.
Apple famously resisted a court order to create a weakened version of iOS to allow the FBI access to a work iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. The company uses end-to-end encryption for iMessages and FaceTime, but iCloud backups are encrypted by Apple, so the company is able to provide access to these to law enforcement agencies on receipt of a court order. It has been suggested in the past that Apple may be planning to move to end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups also.