Western power bloc warns big tech companies of limits on privacy

A meeting of the big English-speaking powers to discuss cybersecurity and terrorism ended with a warning to technology companies that absolute user privacy was not compatible with national interests. The summit was a regular meeting of the “Five Eyes” group, comprising the U.S., Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand.

The final communiqué of the “Five Eyes” meeting said that there was an “urgent need for law enforcement to gain targeted access to data”.  It had noted that the heads of big technology companies – without naming any – “did not accept our invitation to participate in discussions on pressing issues”.

In an accompanying statement, the governmental group said: “Privacy is not absolute”.

“Privacy laws must prevent arbitrary of unlawful interference, but privacy is not absolute,” said the statement on evidence and encryption.

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As news site Silicon Republic noted, a well-known instance of national agencies seeking access to personal digital material happened after the San Bernardino, California, shootings in 2016, and a subsequent tussle between Apple and investigators over access to one shooter’s iPhone. At the time, a Pew Research report found that just over half those surveyed – 51 percent – said that Apple should give the encryption details so the phone could be unlocked.

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The “Five Eyes” meeting took place in Queensland, Australia, at the end of August 2018.

Digital privacy at risk

Privacy of personal data has been breached numerous times on a large scale, sometimes by design but sometimes, it was reported, inadvertently. One example was the Wells Fargo bank data breach in 2017.

  • What examples of encryption battles do you recall?
  • What examples of data theft or loss on a grand scale can be cited?




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