Encrypted communications app Signal is mulling an exit from the UK market in response to a new law threatening its core operational model, while E2EE email service provider Tutanota is taking the opposite approach, pledging to stay and help the British protect their communications from government scrutiny.
The law in question is the “Online Safety Bill,” which is a proposed legislation in the UK that threatens to eliminate encrypted communications in the country by adding a backdoor for law enforcement agencies, and a new regulator, the Online Safety Commissioner.
While the UK government maintains that the law’s aggressive provisions are required to protect vulnerable internet users like children, privacy advocates criticize the proposal for the impact it could have on free speech and privacy.
Signal to Exit
Signal’s president Meredith Whittaker stated earlier this week that the proposed bill undermines people’s right to communicate securely and privately, and encryption cannot work only for those who respect the law. “Encryption is either protecting everyone or it is broken for everyone,” commented Whittaker.
Moreover, Signal’s president said that if any backdoor exists on software, it will be targeted by malicious state actors who want to leverage it for their own intelligence collection purposes, so this approach will inevitably weaken secure communication products.
In conclusion, Whittaker said Signal would “absolutely, 100% walk” from the UK if the Online Safety Bill passes, forcing it to weaken the privacy of its users and betray their trust.
Tutanota to Stay
Today, Germany-based secure email service provider Tutanota published a post stating that they will not walk out of the UK, and they also do not plan to comply with any of the UK government’s requests to backdoor their encryption.
“If Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government want to stop people in the UK from using strong encryption – like provided by our secure email service Tutanota – he must block access to Tutanota – just like Russia and Iran are already doing,” stated Tutanota’s co-founder Matthias Pfau in a strong message to the UK government.
“By doing so, the UK would put itself on the same level as authoritarian regimes like Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China, who are known for setting up Great Firewalls to limit their people’s access to the internet and online services.”
Pfau calls the decision-makers in the UK to reconsider their approach on the matter, warning them that there can be no safe backdoor reserved only for the good guys, and there can not be real security when it’s punched even with good intentions.
The company criticized Online Safety Bill extensively in a dedicated post back in November 2022, developing several arguments against the various provisions of the law, as well as sending an open letter to UK’s Prime Minister.
Tutanota’s founder further warns that secure communications aren’t threatened only in the UK. There are many politicians arguing in favor of encryption backdoors in the EU, USA, and Australia, too, lobbying for the implementation of associated laws.
Currently, the Online Safety Bill has been approved by the House of Commons in the UK’s Parliament and is in the House of Lords stage, where the final decision is to be taken.
The law has not been passed yet, but it’s on its way, but it might implement amendments that will lessen the adverse effects on private communications products.
What’s to stop people who wish to continue using Signal from downloading it from outside of the UK, so the British dictatorship can carry on with their plans to stifle free speech?
P.S. Where are the rest of the comments for this story?
Good question. Where are they? I know I’ve posted comments and questions on other stories located within this website and to this day, they still haven’t appeared. Nor has my question been addressed, eventhough I left my email with it. Instead of being posted, they had a tag on my screen that says my post is awaiting moderation. After refreshing my screen that tag disappeared along with my question. I guess their moderator is on vacation. What else I don’t understand is why my comments or questions would be censored, eh I mean moderated. This website is supposed to be about privacy. Which boils down to the protection of free thought, free speech, and solidarity against enemies of such things, both foreign and domestic. The world is a changing. And not for the better. Good luck Great Britain. I wish you the best at fighting your domestic enemies. Don’t give up. Kudos to Tutanota for having balls. A shout out and a proud salute from a Midwest born veteran to one of my biggest heroes, Edward Snowden. I hope that you and your family are doing well . I also hope that one of these days American’s will change the laws so you can come home and be treated just and fairly. Until then, you give the rest of us hope we can overcome . To any spook wanting to criticize me for such comments, you are just pissed because you’re embarrassed you got caught doing wrong. Rethink your life and what side you’re really on. You are weak minded if you believe what your boss is telling you.