Report Reveals UK Government Push to Attack Encrypted Messengers

Image of locks to suggest security and encryption

The UK government is planning an advertising campaign to attack messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption. The details were published via Rolling Stone over the weekend.

Concern Over Encryption

The documents reveal the government department is aiming to shift public opinion against Facebook’s encryption of Messenger. One proposed idea is a physical campaign that implies child endangerment. In privacy circles this subject is commonly referred to as one of the “Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse.”

According to documents reviewed by Rolling Stone, one the [sic] activities considered as part of the publicity offensive is a striking stunt — placing an adult and child (both actors) in a glass box, with the adult looking “knowingly” at the child as the glass fades to black. Multiple sources confirmed the campaign was due to start this month, with privacy groups already planning a counter-campaign.

In a statement to the publication, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We have engaged [advertising agency] M&C Saatchi to bring together the many organisations who share our concerns about the impact end-to-end encryption would have on our ability to keep children safe.”

Another part of the documents, likely a presentation, claims that “most of the public have never heard” of end-to-end encryption – adding that this means “people can be easily swayed” on the issue. The same slide notes that the campaign “must not start a privacy vs safety debate.”

As part of a Freedom of Information request the Home Office said, “Under current plans, c.£534,000 is allocated for this campaign.”

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