Canada Considers Joining the War on Encryption

It is probably one of the most ill-advised technological effort. Now, Canada could become the fifth country to jump off that cliff.

Just a few days ago, the Five Eyes spy agencies renewed their calls for countries around the world to initiate a war on encryption. Now, it appears that Canada heard the demand to jump and is asking “how high?”.

According to the National Post, Canada’s public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, made some comments about Canada’s possible involvement in the war on encryption. From the report:

“We need to work with the internet companies and the service providers to achieve two objectives simultaneously. The objective of the privacy values that flow from strong new technologies and encryption, but at the same time making sure that our platforms and services and systems are not harbouring the kind of behaviour that would exploit children and create victims,” said Goodale.

“The privacy commissioner and others would not, I’m sure, make the argument that the system should be designed in such a way that it becomes the secret preserve of those who would exploit children, for example.”

Goodale’s comments came at a news conference on Tuesday announcing more money for Canada’s national strategy to prevent child exploitation and the minister warned that people who prey on children, as well as other law-breakers, could exploit encrypted communications to evade police and plan crimes.

This repeats the talking points attempted in other countries. That propaganda, of course, was quickly debunked in Australia over the simple fact that if effective encryption is banned in this country, then those who wish to use encryption to cover their tracks will simply rely on encryption from other countries to cover their tracks. The only thing such a policy solves is that law-abiding citizens get weakened encryption while rewarding the criminals with superior encryption at the same time.

At any rate, Canada is now becoming the fifth country to declare their intention to join the war on encryption. The Trump administration wound up helping America become the fourth country to also declare war on encryption.

The third country to declare war on encryption was the UK and that was a quick followup to Germany also declaring war on encryption.

Australia wound up being the first country in this more recent wave of countries trying to make their countries less secure. At the end of 2018, that country passed anti-encryption laws in a rushed process. The laws themselves wound up being a complete disaster.

First, it wound up becoming an international incident with New Zealand fearing for the safety of their personal information. It seemingly inspired Thailand to crack down on human rights. The laws themselves wound up making no one any safer. Students decided to steer clear of computer science over fears the government would be peering over their shoulders while they worked. The laws sparked a mass innovation and investment exodus from businesses. Businesses considering setting up shop in the country wound up blacklisting Australia because of the laws. The laws paved the way for a massive crackdown on journalism in the country. To top it all off, the anti-encryption laws are also illegal thanks to privacy laws in other countries.

At the end of the day, there is literally no upside to this war on encryption. Australia pretty much proved that such efforts are disastrous on every front with no upside. Of course, spy agencies don’t really care. For the time being, they have a number of countries ear on these matters.

What is a bit surprising in all of this is the fact that the Canadian Liberal party is even considering the idea of pushing for a crackdown on security right before an election like this. It’s probably why it has received so little coverage in the first place. Still, it is unnerving seeing these laws make it to our own backyard like this. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and be on the lookout for updates on this matter.

We’ve reached out to Michael Geist for his thoughts on the developments. We’ll update you if we hear back.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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