That there are times when civil liberties take a back seat to other issues more pressing is obviously true. Sad, but true. In time of war, however distressing this might be, we don’t have a jury trial before shooting at the enemy soldier. Nor do we do so in some time of civil mayhem, the Riot Act exists for a reason and so on.
However, before we permit the erosion of those rights we do want to know that the solution is both necessary and also works. It’s that second that GCHQ’s latest idea fails. The thought is that we can all still use end to end encryption. But that such a system must create a “ghost” message. GCHQ must be cc’d with a copy of what we’re saying to each other. So that they can, if they wish, then try to break that encryption.
Obviously, of course, they’d only do so when pursuing really bad guys. Oh yes. As to why this rather than a back door which simply allowed them to decrypt such a backdoor is exploitable by every bad guy out there so that’s not a good solution.
And yet, quite clearly, this won’t work. The code - source code - for end to end encryption is easily available, undoubtedly there are versions on GitHub and the like. Therefore, what will happen? The commercial forms of such messaging systems would - if such a law were passed - contain such ghosting. Our civil liberties would have been reduced. But to no good end. For what are the bad guys we’re trying to catch going to do? Go get the source code and create their own end to end encryption networks which don’t contain the ghosting.
There’s really no point to such a diminution of our freedoms if it simply won’t solve the problem to hand, is there?