Amber Rudd: ‘I don’t need to understand encryption to understand it’s helping criminals’
Home secretary steps up war of words with WhatsApp and others, suggesting that she is frequently ‘patronised’ by tech companies
The home secretary was speaking at an event taking place as part of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week Credit: PA
Home secretary Amber Rudd has admitted that she does not understand encryption, but still intends to “combat” the technology and the assistance it gives criminals.
Speaking at a Spectator-hosted event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, Rudd was quizzed by an audience member about a subject that has become something of a bête noire for the home secretary. Earlier this year Rudd said that it was “completely unacceptable” that law enforcement and intelligence agencies cannot read messages sent via WhatsApp and other such encrypted platforms.
In Manchester, the BBC reports that she reiterated her opposition to what she sees as the harmful impact of the technology – despite her seeming lack of comprehension about what it does.
“I don't need to understand how encryption works to understand how it's helping – end-to-end encryption – the criminals,” she said. “I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that."
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The home secretary said that she did not want to outlaw encryption entirely, nor did she want firms that use it to include so-called back doors in their code that allow the technology to be circumnavigated. But she would like authorities to be given easier access to content protected by encryption, when required.
Rudd also hit out at what she characterised as the condescension of big technology firms and other commentators.
"It's so easy to be patronised in this business. We will do our best to understand [end-to-end encryption],” she said. "We will take advice from other people but I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right."
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Rounding up the Tories’ key pledges in the area of digital and data, including a new cybercrime force and tax incentives for investments in cloud computing