Government moves against encryption increase need for data safe havens

Ever since David Cameron’s ill-advised call for a ‘ban on encryption’ western governments’ attitudes to data encryption have been in the spotlight. However, the increasing use of end-to-end encryption by the likes of WhatsApp seems to be persuading more and more governments that they should be restricting modern encryption methods.

For example, in February the German and French ministers of the interior sent a joint letter to the European Commission calling for a range of measures to help law enforcement agencies tackle terrorism. These measures include encryption systems that “would allow investigators to decrypt suspects' intercepted messages and seized documents without needing the person's passphrase or private keys.” 

In the US, the FBI and the Justice Department are increasingly coming into conflict with technology providers over encryption. With President Trump now in office, legal protections on encryption remain an open question. 

In most of these cases the government is acting in the name of enhancing national security measures. However, this is often in direct opposition to the needs of business, where data privacy is integral to both a company’s internal and customer operations. Indeed, our own research shows that 1 in 5 IT decision makers would not support any reduction in encryption technology – even for the sake of national security. 

Even if you ignore the needs of businesses, computer security experts point out that it is virtually impossible to create systems that give law enforcement “exceptional access to encrypted information” without also making that encryption essentially worthless.  

However, in the short term it seems that governments around the world will continue to pursue these anti-encryption policies. While the policies may be well meaning, for businesses and individuals it poses a serious problem. They would be well advised to take advantage of data ‘safe havens’ like Switzerland rather than continue to rely on countries where data privacy is being chipped away. 


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