David Cameron hurried along his election campaign earlier this week by doing something that could safely alienate many of those that had no intention of voting for him whilst annoying almost everyone else: threatening to take the death knell to the messaging services loved by each and every one of us.
During a presentation in the East Midlands, Cameron stated on Monday that should the Conservatives win a second term in government at the General Election in May then he will change the way messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption are allowed to work. This includes the likes of WhatsApp, iMessage, Snapchat and any other app that completely encrypts every message sent over the service.
He is quoted as saying “are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that?” “That” is listening into mobile communications and Cameron’s answer to that question, on Monday, was an equivocal no.
The real question among the electorate is now, does a vote for Cameron mean a vote against these apps being allowed to work in their current form?
Well the experts, in this case security analysts, reacted with a mix of laughter and…more laughter. One such expert, Graham Cluley, told The Guardian that the Prime Minister is “living in cloud cuckoo land” if he genuinely thinks a new Tory government has any chance of implementing theimpossible idea.
“The National Crime Agency and the people there understand that relationships with people and the companies like Google are important, as they will help you, but passing laws and badmouthing in public is simply not going to work,” Peter Sommer, professor of cybersecurity and digital evidence at de Montfort and the Open Universities added.
A more realistic option for the government is to work together with technology companies when the apps are being built in order to allow a so-called backdoor for the authorities to look any messages it wants to see. If app publishers then decide not to comply with the rules and continue to tell Cameron’s intelligence pals that they cannot listen in, then maybe the apps would disappear but that is still quite a big if.
So to answer the question of whether Cameron is really going to ban everyone’s favourite messaging apps, then to borrow Cameron’s own earlier sentiments then it’s almost definitely going to be no. Should he get elected once more then there’s one thing for DCam to consider: look at how fast apps go from zero to hero then back to zero again and ponder this… if you open the backdoor to give intelligence access to one app, there will almost definitely be another one waiting in the wings to sweep up the users for itself and give the people what they want.