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The UK Government's Human Rights Abuses Nobody is Talking About

22nd February 2024

Christopher Hatton


The EU has announced that the breaking of encryption is illegal, and doing so may violate certain human rights. See Here. This is an instrumental move from the EU, as encryption plays an essential role in protecting the private information of individuals and organisations. This ruling has also stated that companies should not introduce back doors in their software or telecommunication services, as this would indiscriminately affect all users and introduces vulnerabilities that could be exploited by “both legitimate and criminal actors”. Therefore, any attempt, whether successful or not, to break encryption, is illegal and indiscriminately violates peoples’ human rights under EU law.

Now, let’s look at the UK’s Online Safety Bill. “A UK provider of a regulated search service must operate the service using systems and processes which secure (so far as possible) that the provider reports all detected and unreported CSEA content present on websites or databases capable of being searched by the search engine to the NCA”. For organisations to successfully and efficiently comply with these regulations, they would have to ignore and deviate from the guidance put out by the Council of Europe regarding encryption which would, unfortunately, violate human rights.

Given that the UK is a member of the Council of Europe, I do not understand how the Online Safety Bill was successfully passed, yet alone considered. Moreover, I do not understand is how there is essentially no discussion on this topic. The UK government is knowingly and willingly violating the human rights of it’s citizens, which is an inexcusable offence.

Undoubtedly, there are going to be people who claim that the government is either incompetent or has good intentions. The first argument is arguably a weak argument as the government should not be incompetent in the first place. Why should the average person be criticising the poor performance of the government? It is the role of the government to provide a safe environment for its people by enforcing rules and regulations and punishing those who do not comply. The second argument is, in my opinion, uninformed and ignorant. Some people would refer to Hanlon’s razor: “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence”. However, this is the government we are talking about. They shouldn’t be, and most definitely aren’t incompetent. The government is controlled and influenced by the wealthy few, and so they would benefit from and not be disadvantaged by increased and indiscriminate surveillance.

"Once the ubiquity of collection was combined with the permanency of storage, all any government had to do was select a person or a group to scapegoat and go searching - as I'd gone searching through the agency's files - for evidence of a suitable crime" - Edward Snowden