Invasions of privacy come in many forms, for example the police helicopter pilot, who filmed members of the public sunbathing in their back gardens, but the privacy of emails and other electronic messages is likely to be of more relevance to most people.
This is a hot topic. Against the background of a heightened terror threat, the authorities have argued it is necessary to trade privacy for safety, and to allow the police and intelligence services to view and monitor our private communications. Messaging apps such as Whatsapp, which allow private chat through the end-to-end encryption of messages, have become the focus of much government ire and frustration.
The technology itself however poses an initial and fundamental problem for those attempting to monitor private conversations: due to the nature of end-to-end encryption it does not, and cannot, allow third party access. Even if the technology companies wanted to, it’s generally accepted that it’s not possible to install an access ‘backdoor’ through which messages could be intercepted. So for the moment, those conversations on the whole remain private.
Where other types of encrypted software could allow monitoring, backdoors can themselves pose a fundamental risk to the security of the data itself.
Lord Evans, the former head of MI5, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, recently argued that “…compelling companies to put back doors into encrypted services would make millions of ordinary people less secure online”.
Backdoors can put cybersecurity at risk because once discovered, it’s possible that any backdoor method could be exploited for criminal purposes, compromising the privacy of all users of a service.
As we are encouraged and incentivised to share more personal data, and as more data is generated and collected through our use of technology (the ‘internet of things’), individuals are now at risk of much greater harm when privacy is breached.
Whilst technical innovations such as the storage of data in blockchain networks may protect against the manipulation of data, privacy concerns still remain about the disclosure of the data itself.
To understand further how your data and privacy is currently protected under UK law, please see https://www.cripps.co.uk/media-and-tech/guide-new-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr-part-1-5/
For more information on privacy of communications please contact Will Charlesworth on email@example.com or +44 (0)1892 506 004
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