Tech companies should prioritize the protection of their users and the wider public when designing services, international security partners have warned.
Senior ministers from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States (the Five Eyes countries) have reaffirmed their commitment to work together with industry to tackle a range of security threats.
The commitment follows a two-day summit in London, known as the Five Country Ministerial, where Home Affairs, Interior Security and Immigration Ministers of the Five Eyes countries discussed current and emerging threats which could undermine national and global security.
During a roundtable with tech firms, ministers stressed that law enforcement agencies’ efforts to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes would be hampered if the industry carries out plans to implement end-to-end encryption, without the necessary safeguards. They added that encrypted services could mask the full scale of harms on the internet and put vulnerable users at risk.
Speaking at the conclusion of the two-day conference United States Attorney General William P. Barr said the meeting produced substantive, frank and positive discussions surrounding the shared duty to protect public safety, including those related to the internet.
“Encryption presents a unique challenge. We must ensure that we do not stand by as advances in technology create spaces where criminal activity of the most heinous kind can go undetected and unpunished. Indeed, making our virtual world more secure should not come at the expense of making us more vulnerable in the real world.”
Industry agreed to collaborate with the Five Eyes governments on a set of voluntary principles, to be drawn up by the end of the September, on steps they will take to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse, including the growing threat of livestreaming.
The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘emerging threats’, with ministers also turning their attention to common risks posed by new technologies, including connected devices, terrorist use of the internet and foreign terrorist fighters.
The following commitments were agreed by Ministers present:
- to continue to develop and share learning on cyber threats to improve the collective response
- the importance that supply chains in the 5G network should be trusted and reliable to protect it from unauthorized access or interference
- to create a stronger approach to the misuse of drones, with the U.K. hosting an event next year to enhance cooperation
- to explore enhancing cross border information sharing
- to maintain efforts to combat foreign interference in elections, the economy and academia
The Five Country Ministerial partnership continues and will be hosted in 2020 by New Zealand.