GPD has signed onto a joint civil society statement, expressing concern over proposals by the UK government which would undermine encryption, including through its Online Harms Bill.
The Online Harms Bill, which is expected to be introduced to Parliament in 2021, would impose a range of new measures to regulate online content and platforms in the UK; including a “duty of care” and the creation of a regulatory body. GPD has been closely following the development of the Bill since its introduction as a White Paper in 2019, and has consistently highlighted potential risks to human rights in its proposals.
The joint statement, which is signed by eight other leading civil society organisations, including ARTICLE 19 and Privacy International, calls on the UK government:
- To ensure that the Online Harms Bill, and any duty of care or codes of practices established through the legislation
- do not require or encourage companies to compromise their use of encryption;
- do not place any conditions, or impose any additional potential liability, on an online platform in connection with its use of encryption; and○include explicit exemptions for encrypted and private communications;
- To use alternative methods of investigation, including existing capabilities and powers, to identify illegal behaviour online, provided that they comply with the UK’s international and national human rights obligations; and
- To cease other efforts to weaken or undermine encryption beyond the scope of the Online Harms Bill, including the creation of backdoors or establishing a ghost user presence in specific encryption tools.
- To promote the use of strong encryption nationally and internationally, as a critical element of privacy and security, and particularly in countries and contexts where people’s safety would otherwise be put at risk.