back to article Internet Society condemns UK's Online Safety Bill for demonising encryption using 'think of the children' tactic

Britain's controversial Online Safety Bill will leave Britons more exposed to internet harms than ever before, the Internet Society has said, while data from other countries suggests surveillance mostly isn't used to target child abusers online, despite this being a key cited rationale of linked measures. Government efforts to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep. They're playing political games with trigger words and phrases to try to convince a slow-witted and gullible public to do what they want based on their emotions instead of any kind of logic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "... playing political games..."

      Or internet games, maybe these politicians want their names in some hits/clicks today. Hate is a wonderful advertising tool, facebook exists from it.

    2. Adair Silver badge

      Yep. They're playing political games with trigger words and phrases to try to convince a slow-witted and gullible public to do what they want based on their emotions instead of any kind of logic.

      Now where have we come across that before? Wasn't there some kind of vote, or something?

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Play the same game back at them.

      "If you don't have E2EE then perverts will be able to see your children via the babysitting/security cameras in your house and start grooming them for sexual abuse via your smart devices."

    4. Chris G

      Most of this stuff has the Nudge Unit/Behavioural Insight Group behind it, one of the fruits of Cameron's sojourn in No 10.

      Manipulating the public on a daily basis, allegedly for our own good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Interestingly the top story on the Telegraph's website at the moment is a letter from 40 leading psychologists severely criticising this body's role in government messaging about covid.

    5. ThatOne Silver badge

      > They're playing political games with trigger words and phrases to try to convince a slow-witted and gullible public to do what they want based on their emotions instead of any kind of logic.

      Very concise and fitting description of "Politics" as most politicians worldwide see it...

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So, 0.2% eh ?

    "a specifically broken-out category of warrants granted for child abuse image offences made up just 0.2 per cent of surveillance applications for 2019 – having remained at that insignificant level for 10 years"

    And for those 0.2% we get government mouthpieces actively trying to subvert our civil rights because think of the children.

    Well I'm a normal guy. I don't think about the children, I think about women.

    And I want my privacy back.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

      "I don't think about the children"

      I do. I used to think about my children. Now I think about my grandchildren. And I think it's wrong of the government to deny them the legal use of secure forms of communication which criminals will continue to use.

      Criminals will continue to use them. One thing my experience has taught me is that if a criminal is setting out to commit some offence, say a robbery, which needs some other law to be broken, say stealing a vehicle to use as a getaway car, in support of the main objective, that secondary offence will not inhibit them in the least.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

        But if we increase the tax on cars and made the licence more expensive that would prevent cars being used in robberies

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

          This is entirely true, but only if taken to the correct end point.

          We should make vehicle ownership and operation so expensive that only the ruling classes can afford them. This way all the plebs, as in everyone who is not a member of the ruling classes, won't be able to afford them to commit robberies.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

            It will also make a large reduction in traffic, saving carbon emissions, reducing pollution and avoiding the need to spend more taxpayers money on building new roads. What's not to like? !

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

              Shortcut: Why not remove the plebs altogether? More space and resources for the important people!

              You still need the plebs to make things and keeping you fed, but that can be outsourced or done by illegal immigrants (you can hunt for sport afterwards as an added bonus!): A semi-captive dark-skinned housekeeper is a must-have when you reach a certain social standing.

              1. Adair Silver badge

                Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

                A modest proposal—raise them for meat. At a stroke it solves the problem of livestock contributing to global warming.

                1. ThatOne Silver badge

                  Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

                  You wouldn't eat that!

                  You literally don't know where it has been. Not to mention those people feed on absolute trash, you're going to poison yourself.

                  Proper food must be prestigious or exotic (ideally both), certainly difficult to obtain (ideally very "exclusive" (expensive)), and check at least some fashionable pseudo-science boxes.

                  Like your car or your suit, your food speaks about you, and you have to make sure it only tells what you want it to say: James Bond drinks martini (shaken, not stirred), not homebrew.

        2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

          The plan to end roberries is more elaborate. The agenda "you'll own nothing and be happy" actually means that in the future, there will be no point to rob anyone, because nobody will own anything.

          You still will be able to take something from someone, but that will automatically take credit from your digital wallet and some social credit points, and the victim will get same day replacement.

          1. simkin

            Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

            Uh, huh. Sure they will. Right after the bureaucracy processes it. So never.

          2. adam 40 Silver badge

            Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

            But then the state will own it all, so you rob the state. This is already happening.

          3. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

            > the victim will get same day replacement

            Why on earth would they get replacement? In the name of "Justice"? That would be a first in those last thousands of years of human civilization...

            Firstly it's always the victim's fault, so why bother.

            Second, you most likely can't really prove you've been robbed, or even potentially that you had this money to start with. Besides, was this money legal and all taxes paid on it? Come here, step right in this cell till we sort this out, you certainly have done something, and we are going to find out, eventually... Unless of course you plead guilty right away and spare us (and yourself) the hassle.

            1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

              Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

              If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

        Let's remember that ARPA-Net (internet) was designed to launch nuclear missiles. I'm pretty damn sure Tim Berners-Lee didn't come up with the web to make pornography widely available and I doubt he did it to amuse your children (he'd probably have gone for a coffee instead if he thought that was the case). And cryptography underpins our usage of the modern web!

        Child abuse isn't a censorship issue, it's a human rights issue and tackling it by censorship or removing encryption isn't going to make it go away (I wish it would). Encryption is out there, as is Tor (developed for a laudable purpose but now much abused). It's not the existence of things that's a problem but how people abuse them.

        This old "Won't somebody think of the children?" argument is getting old. I feel like I'm living in an episode of The Simpsons!

        Just as parents' used to supervise what their children watched on TV, it's YOUR JOB AS A PARENT TO SUPERVISE WHAT THEY DO ON THE WEB! Just because you'd rather sit in front of the TV watching "Strictly ...." whilst your children sit up in their room, browsing god knows what, is no excuse. That's not parenting IT'S YOU ABDICATING YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A PARENT!! Your failure to be responsible is why we now have a 9 p.m. watershed on TV in this country. TAKE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A PARENT SERIOUSLY and stop expecting others and the law to do your job for you!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

          "Let's remember that ARPA-Net (internet) was designed to launch nuclear missiles."

          it wasn't. the original arpanet was a #research# network so those who had arpa grants could share access to expensive computers.

          it wasn't the internet either - a network of networks. arpanet became the forerunner to the internet when it switched to ip and that got adopted on campus lans.

        2. Yes Me Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

          As already noted, ARPANET was nothing to with nuclear anything.

          "I'm pretty damn sure Tim Berners-Lee didn't come up with the web to make pornography widely available..."

          No, it was to make it easier for physicists to share information. But the first killer app was of course pornography (as it was for Unix newsgroups, bulletin boards, gopher, and to a considerable extent classical sculpture, Old Master painters, the printing press and photography).

          It remains hard to see how a ban on end-to-end cryptography can be enforced. RFC1984 remains valid.

          1. EnviableOne

            Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

            I See your RFC and raise you an international treaty:

            Universal Declaration of Human Rights

            Article 12:

            No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

            all members of the UN are signatories, and this is a direct breach

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

          > I feel like I'm living in an episode of The Simpsons!

          Why do you think they are so wildly successful? Because they depict reality, but in a way which makes us feel good about ourselves.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: So, 0.2% eh ?

      Back when BSB and their Squariel was a thing they had a messaging system that was to be built into their box. So for example the company could wish an individual subscriber a Happy Birthday on their special day. As the Independent Broadcasting Authority licensee for direct to home satellite broadcasting the company was invited to ‘submit’ their equipment to GCHQ for review.

      GCHQ said that the BSB encryption was too good and would prevent interception of these messages by their good selves. So it was weakened I believe because BSB being the licensee they had to comply and couldn’t just say no.

  3. Electronics'R'Us


    The government and police really want to cripple EE2E because it means they can just trawl through everything which means they really don't have to do real police work.

    Indeed, the current situation seems to back that up.

    So rather than use tried and true methods (aka gathering real evidence) they think this wondrous AI [] will magically make their lives so much easier.

    Then there is the control freakery angle (which seems to infect a lot of people but our government appears to be a super spreader).

    It would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

    1. dafe

      Re: Lazy

      Without E2EE, everyone will be able to trawl through police records and change communications about ongoing investigations.

      Surely that is what the police want.

      1. Pete4000uk

        Re: Lazy

        I like the idea of being able to listen to police communications again.

    2. Blazde

      Re: Lazy

      The irony is rape prosecutions are at an all-time low, in part because of the huge volume of unencrypted digital data the police trawl through now, and in part because victims don't tolerate those levels of intrusion into their data.

      Perhaps some lessons could be learned before this issue burdens all the other crimes as well.

  4. ShadowSystems

    Make the police & politicians an offer...

    If E2EE is so bad & should be outlawed, then let us try an experiment by stripping *all* forms of E2EE from the politician/police communications for a month or two to see how it would affect their lives. If it does no harm then perhaps we'll consider extending it to a wider test group, but if as we suspect it causes serious harmful repercussions, then perhaps a serious rethink of the attempts to ban it should be made.

    If they refuse such an experiment, use that fact (refusing to eat their own dog food) as all the reason you need to tell them to STFU & FOAD.

    1. Inkey
      Big Brother

      Re: Make the police & politicians an offer...

      Yeah this...

      I love the way the camera that caught hanncock In the lift with his surname out was disabled for "security reasons" .... this is a missnomer ... who's security? I would sleep alot better knowing that there were cameras watching the clowns in every political circus the world over, why stop there, public office, open to the public comms.

      As far as little people being exploited i fail to see how back doors magicaly stop sick people... it's prety much always the people close or who have acces to them that perpetuate the evil. The web just does what it was designed to do move information.

      If a youngster is bullied online, block them, change profiles, or just don't use it. Suicide is not a response from bullying but a much deeper emotional truma... again perental issue not somthing a clamp on encryption is going to solve.

  5. DevOpsTimothyC

    If THEY have nothing to hide

    We keep getting comments like "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear" from the powers that be.

    Why then are MP's not using official (on the record) means to discuss everything. Yes I am talking about WhatApp and the like.

    Currently along these lines, the Sue Grey. If the met felt there was nothing to investigate before then why should it delay or cause redactions in the report now. It seems a very bad attempt at either covering things up, or smoothing the curve so we get a string of small revelations which are survivable rather than all at once which would be more problematic.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: If THEY have nothing to hide

      We keep getting comments like "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear" from the powers that be.

      If anyone trots that out near me I reply by saying in that case you won't mind me putting streaming web cams in your bedroom and bathroom then, because you're an upright citizen with nothing to hide.

      1. dafe

        Re: If THEY have nothing to hide

        I did that once. I was told "that's what privacy is for."

        Those who say that they have nothing to hide believe that they have hidden everything already.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: If THEY have nothing to hide

      I preferred it when politicians were using pagers the messages for those were/are broadcast unencrypted.

      Even better they have to be broadcast everywhere in the because the pagers* were just receivers and had no return path. So to guarantee that the recipient got the message wherever they were it had to be broadcast nationwide. So somebody in Birmingham could receive (with a very limited amount of equipment) messages sent to MPs at their conference in Brighton.

  6. Clausewitz 4.0

    Think of the poor NSA/GCHQ

    How can they protect you if all they want is encrypted?

    Illegal Brain-machine interface ( AI ) is just a human rights fiasco.

    1. dafe

      Re: Think of the poor NSA/GCHQ

      You are confused about AI and BMI.

      I wouldn't mind being able to connect to the internet with my mind. I would mind if that connection wasn't encrypted.

      AI is just a different way of programming. Instead of writing a function that maps the input to the output, use a function that finds a heuristic from example input-output pairs.

      BMIs may require AIs to work, but they are not the same thing or in the same category.

      And neither endanger human rights, they may even help protect them. People might use technology for nefarious purposes, like drunk driving, but they would get drunk even without technology.

      1. Clausewitz 4.0

        Re: Think of the poor NSA/GCHQ

        I am not confusing BMI and AI.

        Intelligence agencies are used to tease those they illegally implanted with BMI, calling it AI in the news.

  7. localzuk Silver badge

    Criminals will continue to crime...

    The entire argument is flawed.

    It is not overly complicated to create your own E2EE comms app. Criminal gangs will do this. The tools are already available online. So what exactly does banning it for the law abiding citizens of the country do to prevent crime?

    1. dafe

      Re: Criminals will continue to crime...

      I'd go further.

      Without E2EE, criminals will have access to all of the files that the police and MI have compiled on everyone.

    2. Infused

      Re: Criminals will continue to crime...

      Criminals did create their own encrypted network: Encrochat. The authorities still managed to infiltrate it & bust hundreds of criminals. It's more likely criminals use more traditional, surveillance proof methods nowadays.

  8. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    G7 governments are run by WEF puppets that are on various levels of Great Reset implementation. One of the pillars of the great new world is total control of the communication, so anything can be censored and any cells of dissent swiftly neutralised.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought we had a right to privacy. To select the services we trust based on the privacy they provide.

    what happens if we all decide to encrypt are own data, how will they stop us?

    A new business will emerge like the old PGP approach. Oh wait thats what the bad guys do anyway, no requirement for service/app providers to do it.

    Or are they to check every file transmitted, block any encrypted and send you a notice of prosecution for securing your own data.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Or are they to check every file transmitted, block any encrypted

      That's not encrypted! I'm just sending my mate a file of the finest white noise known to man.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        I bet that's pink noise - you prevert!!!

      2. TimMaher Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: “finest white noise”

        Can you snort that using a rolled up bank note?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Online Safety Bill may end up unenforceable like the UK age verification law that was delayed over and over again until it was scraped because they just could not find a way to get it up and running. its also easy to see that the new bill could also collapse and not work at all.

    1. I'm feeling old

      I find myself forced to agree with you about unenforceability but for different reasons. I suspect that once the spooks saw a significant uptake in VPN traffic they baulked at the size of the task. Now many of us have been working from home I suspect GCHQ et al have taken the opportunity to refine their techniques against VPN tunnels. Reintroduce age verification and things will move to things like TAILS and Kodachi as a way to circumvent matters. It's the nature of the beast.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I have seen some technology experts on Twitter actually saying VPNs might end up being banned or at least payment providers being blocked from processing payments for them.

        I think it's difficult to foresee what will happen with the OSB. Since there is near-unanimity in parliament & the media, I can't see that it won't be voted in (even with all the political turmoil). However, it won't be the current government that will be shaping it since the likely timescale for deciding all the secondary legislation & codes of practice will take years. Estimates I've seen maybe 2025 at least before Ofcom are ready to even begin regulating the internet.

        Even now special interest groups are lobbying for new additions to the bill. In its current form it seems a bloated contradictory mess. I think if it passes it will create huge uncertainty for the UK technology sector.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Banning VPNs will be very hard aswell as blocking payments for them seeing so many use them.

          Just want to point out the bill not had its first reading yet and the date for it introduction is around March but there talk it could be delayed up to July.

  11. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "little reason to assume the UK is much different from its sister democracies"

    Little reason indeed, although what they all share is that they're not really democracies at all. They're periodically re-elected bureaucratic dictatorships. As G. K. Chesterton pointed out (in, I think, 1909) we won't have real democracy until the populace sets the agenda that is to be voted on. At present, all we really have is to rely on our representatives (who have a potentially conflicting party loyalty) to vote on our behalf on issues we haven't chosen.

    This argument about encryption is typical of the 'state' that emerges from the above mind set - the authorities expect to be trusted in relying on encryption to conceal their activities 'for the benefit of the public', but the populace is not to be trusted and must expose every communication to scrutiny.

    Recently reported events at No. 10 would appear to cast some doubt on that principle.

    1. adam 40 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: "little reason to assume the UK is much different from its sister democracies"

      Only small parts of the dicktatorship are re-elected though, most of it (the 90% under the water) carries on regardless.

      Sources: "Yes, Minister", and "Yes, Prime Minister", the British Broadcasting Corporation.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "little reason to assume the UK is much different from its sister democracies"

      "we won't have real democracy until the populace sets the agenda that is to be voted on"

      The bad news is that we're now more or less there. [Anti-]Social media allows the populace, or at least a large gobbet of it, to raise an issue and some party or other picks it up. The consequence is apt to be the results of single issue campaigns and aspirational targets set for a date safely in the future where it becomes SEP and hard problems don't get tackled, let alone solved.

      Be careful what you ask for.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I presume encryption between two points is not part of the consideration here (from me to the bank) as that would break much of the https web and trust in payment systems etc. That seems to be what the Internet Society is complaining about.

    It's the specific star network where encypted data sent is from one person to another but passes through a third party (FaceBook etc) who don't have the keys to read it. Perhaps that's a less emotive issue to raise as it's mainly messaging services.

    So encrypted peer-to-peer communication will be fine?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      I think encryption between two points IS the issue. For messaging, FaceBook's servers aren't any different from an email server and neither is very different from a plain old router.

      If you managed to craft a law that banned messaging via a delay-tolerant server, but not encryption per se, you'd just spur the take-up of services that tunnelled through all those IPv4 NATs. (Perhaps sticking it to the spooks is the killer app for IPv6?)

      I think the real intention here is to make it impossible for two private citizens to have a private conversation at a distance. One or two societies have tried that in the past. They weren't nice places to live in and usually ended badly for the bastards at the top, but not soon enough in the opinion of those who eventually overthrew them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah...."impossible"....think again!!


        Quote: "...the real intention here is to make it impossible for two private citizens to have a private conversation at a distance.."

        Not as hard as you might think using email:

        1. Diffie/Helman step 1. Potential recipient publishes their public token for anyone to see (and keeps their private token private!)

        2. Sender calculates a Diffie/Helman private/public token pair.......

        3. ....and uses the recipient's public token to calculate a one-time secret key. Encrypts message. Throws away secret key!

        4. Sender packages the sender's public token plus the encrypted message...and emails the package to the recipient.

        5. Recipient uses senders's public token and their own private token (see step #1) to calculate the same secret key. Decrypts message. Throws away secret key.

        Nota bene:

        A) The secret key exists only for a fraction of a second twice: once at the sender end, and once at the recipient end

        B) The exchange of two public tokens on an open channel tells snoops NOTHING about the encryption scheme (AES? IDEA? SALSA20, a private bookcipher?).....and nothing about the secret key either

        Obviously this needs a bit of software support, but it implements peer-to-peer messaging IN PRIVATE across a public channel. NOT IMPOSSIBLE!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Some of us like "impossible".......



          Interesting to note that the Diffie/Helman scheme would also be useful across services which offer allegedly(!) "end-to-end encryption".

          Just suppose the "end-to-end encryption" (you know Proton, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc etc etc) is actually hacked already.

          People using the Diffie/Helman scheme have an additional (private) layer of security!!

          When the snoops break into, say, a Proton mail message, all they find is.....MORE ENCRYPTION!!

 up on Diffie/ up your favorite C compiler....and use private encryption BEFORE YOUR MESSAGES ENTER ANY PUBLIC CHANNEL!!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Ah...Diffie/Helman...Especially interesting when BIG numbers are in the mix....

            The people worrying about "encryption" really don't have a clue......

            So...someone is using Diffie/Helman to share a secret (calculated) key.....

            The relevant recipient Diffie/Helman private token (in decimal) is:





            The relevant sender Diffie/Helman public token (in decimal) is:





            But the shared arithmetic formula is still unknown!

            So........secret keys can STILL be:

            A) SECRET

            B) COMPLETELY UNKNOWN to both sender and recipient (thanks to shared software)

            And the actual encryption algorith is still unknown....even if the encrypted message has been read.

            ...AES, SALSA20, IDEA, BLOWFISH, chacha...or maybe a private book cipher?

            How much supercomputer time is needed to decrypt a "Happy Birthday" message?

  13. Mike 16

    Watching the Drug dealers

    If we make that harder, the police will not be able to selectively enforce drug laws against the competitors to their favorite dealers, who are obviously upright citizens, what with the frequent contributions to the widows and Orphans fund.

    That could lead to a rapid growth in the "suggested donations" from pretty much all small businesses. When the pub starts passing that tax on to their customers, there may be some resistance from the electorate.

    (Above is based on happenings in the U.S. YMMV in the U.K.)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won’t no encryption HELP paedophiles?

    Able to hack chats with kids/groups/playgroups/parents groups etc? It’s not uncommon for families to share photos and most kids don’t start feeling bashful about being naked until a later age.

    Paedophilia is abhorrent (obviously) but statistically speaking is not common, and as the article says there are better options to *try* and protect kids. This campaign is just absurd.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Won’t no encryption HELP paedophiles?

      Of course, but thinking things through is hard.

  15. Adam Azarchs
    Black Helicopters

    As far as the cops are concerned...

    When it comes to crime, an ounce of prevention is a lot less fun than pounding down the door of a criminal. So they probably see enabling more crime as a side benefit of these measures, so long as it's also easier to catch the criminals.

    (which it won't be, because effective end to end encryption is something you can write the code for on a T-shirt, so anyone who can afford the services of someone who knows what a compiler is and doesn't have much respect for the law will still have it)

    For a while the USA classified strong encryption algorithms as munitions for export control purposes. That means our right to encryption is protected by the second amendment, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As far as the cops are concerned...

      Weren’t us Brits only allowed 32 bit SSL encryption for years as the web blossomed? For this very reason.

  16. The Central Scrutinizer

    Seriously, this....still?

    I wonder how many of those in power have even the faintest inkling of how encryption works or why it is a good thing.

    I'm guessing pretty close to zero

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Seriously, this....still?

      Fundamental rule of human psyche: "You don't have to know something to hate it."

      (Works for persons too.)

  17. EricB123 Bronze badge

    It (almost) worked for Apple

    Whoops! I almost posted the same comment I posted just last week

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like