No encryption back doors for UK security agencies, says Anderson report

Online 'no-go' areas for law enforcement should be minimised, but UK security agencies should not back back doors into encrypted online communications, an independent review out today concluded.


Security agencies in the UK should not have back doors into encrypted online communications, David Anderson QC said in an independent review of surveillance powers out today.

Back doors to encryption and state-held 'master keys' to decrypt communications "threaten the integrity of our communications and of the internet itself”, he said.

Despite that, the report , the report, concluded.called for online “no-go” areas for intelligence and law enforcement to be "minimised”.

Instead, Anderson recommended in the report titled ‘A Question Of Trust’, that there should be a “law-based system” where encryption keys are handed over only after properly authorised requests.

The review said a controversial proposed new law dubbed ‘Snooper’s Charter’ should go ahead, but with caveats. Anderson said “a detailed operational case” needed to be made out, and a “rigorous assessment” made of the lawfulness, likely effectiveness, cost and intrusiveness of the proposed new powers.

He said warrants for interception should require judicial approval and said there should be an assumption of the “maximum possible transparency”  by public bodies throughout the process.

Anderson called for the independence of those authorising interception requests to be beefed up, with a new body set up responsible for issuing warrants, authorising controversial requests for communications data and issuing guidance.

The report suggested it should be called the ‘Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission’.

It recommended the government keep the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), which passed into law last year.

The law requires internet and phone companies to collect their customers’ communication data, keep it for 12 months and give access to police or security agencies on request.

“It is time for a clean slate,” Anderson said today, promising his report would “help Parliament achieve a world-class framework for the regulation of these strong and vital powers”.

“The current law is fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent,” he said.

“Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with international human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards,” Anderson added. 

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