I have had a response from my MP, Layla Moran of the Liberal Democrats to my email expressing concerns about the Online Safety Bill. She says:
Thank you for contacting me about the Online Safety Bill – I absolutely share your concerns. Regulation of online services must respect the rights to privacy and free expression of those who use it legally and responsibly.
Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat DCMS spokesperson tabled an amendment to the Online Safety Bill when it was in the House of Commons. New Clause 38 sought to ensure that nothing in the Act shall prevent providers of user-to-user services protecting their users’ privacy through end-to-end encryption.
During the debate Jamie Stone said:
“My second amendment is on end-to-end encryption. I do not want anything in this Bill to prevent providers of online services from protecting their users’ privacy through end-to-end encryption. It does provide protection to individuals and if it is circumvented or broken criminals and hostile foreign states can breach security. Privacy means security”.
You can read the whole debate here.
It is good that the Government is recognising the dangers that exist online and the inadequacy of current protections. However, regulation and enforcement must be based on clear evidence of well-defined harm and must respect the rights to privacy and free expression of those who use social media legally and responsibly.
Encryption provides protection to individuals and if it is circumvented or broken, criminals and hostile foreign states can also breach security.
This view is backed by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Stephen Bonner, the ICO’s executive director for innovation and technology said end-to-end encryption helped keep children safe online by not allowing "criminals and abusers to send them harmful content or access their pictures or location".
The ICO argues that end-to-end encryption serves an important role in safeguarding privacy and online safety. (A Framework for Analysing End to End Encryption in an Online Safety Context (ico.org.uk))
When it comes to encryption, for the vast majority of users – privacy means security. Liberal Democrats will oppose any attempts to systematically undermine encryption.
Thanks again for writing to me about this incredibly important issue.
Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Oxford West & Abingdon