Apple has joined Google, WhatsApp and 44 other signatories in penning an open letter to the U.K.’s cybersecurity agency GCHQ. The open letter asks the agency to abandon plans for the so-called “ghost protocol.”
This would force encrypted message services to allow eavesdropping by silently adding “a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call.” In essence, it would make it possible to inject hidden participants into secure messaging services.
However, the companies in question suggest that doing this would “seriously undermine user security and trust.” The letter notes that the proposal would, “turn a two-way conversation into a group chat where the government is the additional participant, or add a secret government participant to an existing group chat.”
Apple’s defense of privacy
Apple’s opposition to the proposal is no surprise. Apple has frequently spoken up about its belief in strong encryption and user privacy. This even led to a standoff with the FBI in 2015 and 2016. The company also criticized the U.K.’s proposed “Snooper’s Charter” during the legislation’s draft stage. Specifically, it argued that forcing companies to create backdoors in encryption services like iMessage could “hurt law-abiding citizens.”
Responding to the latest open letter, the National Cyber Security Centre’s Ian Levy said:
“We welcome this response to our request for thoughts on exceptional access to data — for example to stop terrorists. The hypothetical proposal was always intended as a starting point for discussion. “We will continue to engage with interested parties and look forward to having an open discussion to reach the best solutions possible.”