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Should encrypted communications tools be banned?

In light of the recent news how the UK government is pushing harder for a legislation which would allow it to monitor all digital communications, and ban those apps that use encryptions, a huge debate has sparked on whether the government should be allowed to do this or not.

Professor of Law at the London School of Economics, Andrew Murray, has had his say on the matter in a Huffington Post (opens in new tab) article, arguing that banning communications apps to curb the work of terrorist groups would be similar to banning cars in order to stop terrorists from using them.

“There is a risk that a terrorist cell may use WhatsApp to organise a terrorist attack, but equally there is a risk they will use a family car to carry a car bomb or public transport to get to their target. Are we also going to ban public transport and family cars unless the security services have the ability to monitor everyone who makes use of them? What about the sale of knives or even petrol? The infinitesimal risk that Snapchat or Whatsapp could be used in this manner needs to be set against the much greater risk that data security breaches will see our bank or credit card details revealed or our personal communications compromised,” he writes.

There are many arguments against government communications surveillance, which is why the Minister of State for Security has pledged that "new legislation will be published for pre-legislative scrutiny later this year and we do intend this to be a very consultative process, subject to full parliamentary scrutiny".

“This is to be welcomed,” professor concludes. “There has been for too long an overwhelming democratic deficit in the scrutiny and review of UK surveillance powers: at times to make sense of them has felt like trying to do a jigsaw in the dark and with some of the pieces hidden from us. We will hold the Minister to his pledge. It is time for a full public and parliamentary review of the law.”

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.