The ‘Five Eyes’ international pact of nation states (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) plus India and Japan have published a new letter calling on tech companies to give law enforcement agencies access to their encrypted products. The international statement warning of the dangers of encryption was signed by top justice officials at the 7 countries and warned that growing numbers of end-to-end encrypted apps “pose significant challenges to public safety.” In 2018, the ‘Five Eyes’ countries issued a similar memo calling on companies to build backdoors into their encrypted products.

Although the signatories acknowledge that encryption is vital and privacy and cybersecurity must be protected across the world, they add that it “should not come at the expense of wholly precluding law enforcement, and the tech industry itself, from being able to act against the most serious illegal content and activity online”, above all child sexual abuse material.

They also propose that tech companies should not only provide access to encrypted data in transit but also to locally stored data like the contents of a phone, as in the 2016 San Bernardino case. “While this statement focuses on the challenges posed by end-to-end encryption, that commitment applies across the range of encrypted services available, including device encryption, custom encrypted applications and encryption across integrated platforms,” said the signatories. 

Earlier this year, the ‘Five Eyes’ countries agreed to promote 11 voluntary principles among online platforms to protect children from sexual abuse online and to make internet platforms more difficult for child sex offenders to exploit. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter signed up for the project and helped develop the principles. 


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