Don’t Scan Me!

The Online Safety Act’s spy clause outsources surveillance to messaging apps.

A ‘spy clause‘ in the Online Safety Act introduced powers to scan our private messages. Clause 122 of the Act empowers Ofcom to issue notices to providers of messaging services. These notices require them to develop and deploy software that will scan your phone for illicit material.

Message scanning is an expansion of mass surveillance. Millions of people use these services daily. Scanning phone messages breaks the promise of confidentiality and undermines our security.

This spy clause unlocks the security measures built into your phone. Some providers of end-to-end encrypted messaging such as Signal and WhatsApp have said they will withdraw their service from the UK, rather than undermine security if Ofcom decides to make use of these powers.

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If the securocrats get their way, they will turn your phone into a spy in your pocket. They will scan your private messages for illicit content without judicial oversight. There is a scary parallel here with the surveillance society created in places like China. If we accept the principle of mass surveillance of our private messages, it opens the door to creeping authoritarianism.

Online Safety Bill: Civil society organisations urge UK to protect global digital security and safeguard private communication

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The Story So Far

Omnishambles over encrypted messages continues

At the eleventh hour of the Online Safety Bill’s passage through Parliament, the Government has found itself claiming to have both conceded that it won’t do anything stupid regarding encrypted messages, and that it may well press ahead with dangerous technologies if it wants to.
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