The UK Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, has defended a controversial provision in the Online Safety Bill that requires messaging apps to grant access to the content of private messages upon request by regulator Ofcom. This measure is intended to protect children from abuse. However, tech companies like WhatsApp and Signal have threatened to leave the UK if they are required to compromise their messaging security. The bill is set to be passed in the autumn.
Donelan clarified that the government is not against encryption and that access to messages would only be sought as a last resort. She emphasized that the focus should be on tech companies investing in technology solutions to address this issue. A potential solution, known as Client Side Scanning, involves software that scans content on devices and alerts authorities if it detects problematic content.
Children’s charity NSPCC supports efforts to tackle child abuse in encrypted platforms and suggests that tech firms should invest in technology that balances safety and privacy. However, critics like Ryan Polk from the Internet Society argue that the proposed technologies undermine end-to-end security and privacy.
The legislation, which includes this contentious provision, is expected to return to the House of Commons in September for further debate.