The UK state’s obsession with end-to-end encryption shows no sign of abating, with a questionable £0.5 million ad campaign set to be launched.

Scott Bicheno

January 17, 2022

2 Min Read
privacy

The UK state’s obsession with end-to-end encryption shows no sign of abating, with a questionable £0.5 million ad campaign set to be launched.

We have Rolling Stone to thank for the scoop. It got hold of some documents that indicate the UK government has hired ad agency M&C Saatchi to launch a publicity campaign designed to convince the public that end-to-end encryption, especially in direct messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, is bad.

As with most state attempts to curtail freedom and civil liberties, this power grab is being done in the name of safety. It seems the campaign will lazily draw on the ‘think of the children’ cliché, with dodgy-sounding ads featuring adults looking furtively at kids, apparently to imply that encryption facilitates child abuse.

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“We have engaged M&C Saatchi to bring together the many organisations who share our concerns about the impact end-to-end encryption would have on our ability to keep children safe,” a Home Office spokesperson told Rolling Stone.

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A Freedom of Information request sent last September by someone other than the author of the piece eventually got a response confirming the budget for this campaign is £534,000. It’s reasonable to question this expense at a time of such economic stress for the country but the bigger concern surrounds possible ulterior motives for this initiative.

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The UK state has had a problem with encrypted messaging for years and there are indications it’s also responding to pressure from its allies (which usually means just the US). The perma-emergency attached to the Covid pandemic has served to significantly whet the appetite of governments around the world for increased surveillance powers. Encryption is a major impediment to that ambition but, in common with so many other government bright ideas over the past couple of years, this piece of ill-timed profligacy is likely to achieve nothing, at best.

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About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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