47 organizations, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and WhatsApp, have strongly criticized the proposal to eavesdrop on encrypted messages from UK intelligence agency GCHQ. In an open letter to Lawfare the plan says it will undermine security plans, threaten trust in encrypted messaging services, and ultimately jeopardize citizens' privacy and freedom of expression.
The GCHQ proposal was first published as part of a series of essays last November and does not necessarily reflect the legislative agenda of intelligence agencies at this time. In an essay, two British intelligence officers insisted that law enforcement should be added as a "ghost" participant in all encrypted messaging conversations.
This means that the intelligence agency will not see that the user has participated in the chat and will see the encrypted message. The authors of the proposal claim that this solution is no more infringing than the current practice of wiretapping unencrypted phone conversations.
The signer of the letter yesterday insisted that the solution would "seriously undermine user security and trust". They need to change the way messaging applications use encryption, and to hide messages or notifications about people who are currently in chat, to mislead users.
One of the original authors of the proposal, Ian Levy (National Cyber Security Center), proposed the proposal as "hypothetical" and it was only intended as a "starting point for discussion". CNBC Levy "We will continue to communicate with our stakeholders and look forward to open discussions to find the best possible solution."