By Gabrielle King

As tragic terror attacks continue to occur throughout the world, many are wondering whether there are ways to prevent these attacks. Intelligence agencies utilize their resources to learn more about the terrorists planning these attacks. This includes receiving information about the suspect’s communications with others which could assist in identifying coconspirators and others that may have been involved in the attack. This information would evidently be useful to intelligence agencies although it could reduce citizens’ privacy when communicating with others.

British government officials planned to meet with American technology companies to discuss the “fight against terrorism.”  Mark Scott, In Wake of Attack, U.K. Officials to Push Against Encryption Technology, The New York Times (Mar. 27, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/CB2T-JCRR.  Government officials want to have the ability to access private communications of suspected terrorists in order to gain more knowledge and information about the attack. However, they are often unable to do so without running into encryption issues. Britain’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, specifically inquired about WhatsApp, a service owned by Facebook. She believes that agencies should be permitted to access these private messages shared through this instant-messaging service.

The U.K. has passed legislation that gives law enforcement more power to access encrypted communications as part of its strategy to fight terrorism. Will other countries attempt to follow the U.K.’s strategy?

Accessing these private communications may not be simple. Weakening encryption could leave citizens with less security. Jim Killock, an executive director of a British non-profit organization, argues that “[c]ompelling companies to put back doors into encrypted services would make millions of ordinary people less secure online.”  Mark Scott, In Wake of Attack, U.K. Officials to Push Against Encryption Technology, The New York Times (Mar. 27, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/CB2T-JCRR.  Presumably, citizens would be more susceptible to hacking as a result. Moreover, citizens would feel less secure communicating with individuals if intelligence agencies could access all of their messages that are supposed to be private through the use of these messaging services.  

This will inevitably be a discussion that continues throughout the years. As technology continues to advance, significant technological changes may have an impact on this issue. It is seemingly important to find an appropriate balance between individual privacy and preventing terrorism and promoting national security.

 

Student Bio: Gabrielle is a Staff Member of the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 2L at Suffolk University Law School. She holds a B.A. in Politics and Law from Bryant University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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