Chat apps that promise to prevent your messages being accessed by strangers are under scrutiny again following last week’s terror attack in London. On Sunday, the home secretary said the intelligence services must be able to access relevant information.
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This is only tangentially related to our readings and the themes we’ve been exploring throughout the course, but I do think it’s worth including. Many ‘chat’ apps use end-to-end encryption, so messages sent are private, even to the company itself. The government clearly believes that this shouldn’t be allowed, and is attempting to take steps to prevent it. Hopefully unsuccessfully, I should add.
There’s an assumption here that data about us ought to be at least potentially public – chat apps, says the Home Secretary, must not provide a ‘secret place’. It’s not far from this position to one that says that we don’t own the data we generate, along with the data generated about us: where we are, who we send messages to, and so on. There are questions around the intersection of civil liberties and technology, and whether there’s a digital divide in terms of the ability to protect yourself from surveillance online.