The UK government has made changes to its controversial Online Safety Bill, showing signs of softening its stance on end-to-end encryption (E2EE). The bill, which aims to combat harmful content on the internet, initially raised concerns about compromising the security of private messages on digital communication platforms.
E2EE is an encryption method that ensures that communications remain safe by keeping the decryption keys hidden, even from platform providers. The proposed bill threatened to undermine this security by giving Ofcom (the UK's regulatory and competition authority for the communications industry) the power to require the use of "accredited technology" for content moderation, which would require the identification and removal of illegal content.
Major tech companies such as WhatsApp, Apple and Signal raised objections, warning that they would rather leave the UK than let this come at the expense of user privacy.
Now, however, it seems that the UK government has taken the criticism to heart, and it has come out with the message that tech companies will not be required to automatically scan digital communication between users. In reality, however, there is little to suggest that the government's view has changed. The controversial part of the bill will not be removed, meaning there will still be a backdoor introduced that undermines end-to-end encryption. The only change is that the UK government has now said it won't force tech companies to actually enforce them.
It remains to be seen whether the UK's bill will be implemented or if it will be dropped altogether. Meanwhile, the government's decision could have a major impact on similar legislation being negotiated in the EU.