GCHQ Director Calls for Discussion and Collaboration Between Agencies and Tech Companies to Tackle Encryption

By Staff Writer

Mar 09, 2016 06:19 AM EST

The director of UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) calls for closer cooperation and collaboration between intelligence agencies and tech companies over encryption issues. GCHQ director Robert Hannigan addressed the issue in a speech in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston.

Hannigan has expressed his concerns over encryption and other cyber security issues faced by the intelligence, agencies, police, and U.S. agencies and bureaus shortly after he was appointed as GCHQ director. In a post published at Financial Times, he wrote about a new generation of terrorists and criminals take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities offered by the internet and the web.

And once again, as tech giant Apple and the FBI are involved in a legal dispute over encryption issues, Hannigan seek to open a discussion and encourage collaboration to help solve such problems. The legal battle between Apple and FBI began when the tech company defied the court order demanding it to provide assistance for the FBI to help bypass an iPhone's encryption owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Realizing that the UK and US are facing a similar problem, the GCHQ director called for a close collaboration between agencies in the two countries. "We need a new relationship between the tech sector, academia, civil society and government agencies. We should be bridging the divide, sharing ideas and building a constructive dialogue in a less highly-charged atmosphere," he said, as quoted by the BBC.

In the speech, Hannigan also noted that he is not speaking in favor of banning encryption nor the existence of mandatory 'backdoors'. Instead, as reported by The Guardian, he told the audience that it was a moral issue, "Defining what is reasonable and practical, of course, immediately engages proportionality. Does providing the data in clear endanger the security of others' data? The unwelcome answer which dissatisfies advocates at both ends of the spectrum is: it depends."

Hannigan's aim with the speech is to state the importance of clarity and term of references regarding encryption. According to The Register, he also noted that the importance of encryption grows as more of our private lives move online and the economy becomes increasingly dependent on digital currency and block-chain systems.

As the debate is not about whether the best practice is to provide or not provide backdoors, Hannigan emphasized that what important for the issue is practical cooperations between authorities and industries. Both will need a clear framework that needs to be implemented by commercial providers. 

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