The UK government wants backdoor access to communications for “everything people actually use”, Edward Snowden has claimed.
The former NSA contractor took to Twitter to criticise comments from Baroness Shields, the UK minister for internet safety and security, over her position on encrypted data.
Shields said the government didn’t want to introduce backdoors that allow security services to access encrypted information, but Snowden argued proposed warrants for access to data were in effect a backdoor.
“This is not about creating back doors; this is about companies being able to access communications on their network when presented with a warrant,” Shields told the House of Lords following questions on cybersecurity. She continued to say there was “no intention” for the government to introduce new ways to weaken encryption or provide backdoors to it.
But Snowden said the government did in fact intend to introduce backdoors, arguing its position was: “Of course we want backdoors, but only for everything people actually use.”
Instead of weakening encryption the government is expected to boost the powers and circumstances where it can obtain a warrant to access communications data from companies.
However, the NSA whistleblower claimed that a backdoor was a way to “provide secret access” to communications that were intended to be confidential. “It has nothing to do with warrants,” he said.
“The warrant is immaterial. A backdoor that requires a warrant is still a backdoor,” Snowden said in one of a series of tweets about the comments. “A warrant permits the disclosure of records companies already retain for their business purposes, and no more. It cannot deputize a company.”
He continued to say: “‘Why not,’ some ask. Because otherwise a warrant from Shanghai would mean Google can be required to tap the Queen’s emails for China.”
The cybersecurity questions in the House of Lords come ahead of the planned publication of the draft Investigatory Powers bill, which will set out the government’s plans for revamping the powers of surveillance it has.
The draft version of the bill is expected to be published next week.