The UK government has no plans to ban or weaken encryption, according to minister for internet safety and security Baroness Shields.
Shields made assurances in the Lords plans to curb encryption are not being made after being asked outright by Lord Clement-Jones to "absolutely confirm" that no upcoming legislation will weaken encryption or provide back doors to software,
Shields replied: "I can confirm that there is no intention to do that. That is correct."
"The government does not advocate or require the provision of a back-door key or support arbitrarily weakening the security of internet applications and services in such a way. Such tools threaten the integrity of the internet itself," she added.
Shields also denied that prime minister David Cameron wants to ban encryption, claiming instead that he merely "expressed concern" that firms are introducing end-to-end encryption and not retaining access keys.
"The prime minister did not advocate banning encryption," she said. "This is not about creating back doors. This is about companies being able to access communications on their network when presented with a warrant."
These comments are especially vague, as end-to-end encryption is by its very nature designed not to be intercepted. The process means that only the recipient holds the key to access the communication. Even the firm that runs the service can't open the content.
Yet, despite claiming to have no plans to sneak in invasive rules, Shields said it was "alarming" that end-to-end encryption is now being used by firms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat.
"It is absolutely essential that these companies, which understand and build those stacks of technology, are able to decrypt that information and provide it to law enforcement in extremis," she said.
Interestingly, the earl of Erroll, Merlin Hay, complained that encryption services currently used by the government are "particularly complicated".
"Will the minister please urge the government [...] to start sending out sensitive communications in this way, to look at using the easier and simpler forms of encryption that exist?" he asked the House.
Shields' comments come amid increased tension between the government and technology firms over the practice of encryption and who exactly has back-door access to software and applications.
The government can currently obtain a warrant to access communications data held by technology firms, but many remain cautious over the real scope of the government's snooping capabilities since the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.
Indeed, many high-level officials continue to claim that increased encryption technology is helping to aid terrorism, including MI5 chief Andrew Parker.
"The terrorists are using secure apps and internet communications to try to broadcast their message and incite and direct terrorism among people who live here who are prepared to listen to their message," he said in September.
"MI5 and others need to be able to navigate the internet to find terrorists' communications. We need to be able to use data sets so we can join the dots to be able to find and stop the terrorists who mean us harm."
FBI director James Comey referred to increased encryption as "going dark". He recently told a US Senate judiciary committee in Washington that encrypted social media and messaging tools are aiding Islamic State.
"It is Islamic State's widespread reach through the internet and social media which is most concerning as it has aggressively employed this technology for its nefarious strategy," he said.
However, the Draft Communications Data Bill, or Snoopers' Charter, is on the horizon and many opponents continue to criticise the government's encryption rhetoric.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales recently described the government's plans on encryption as "moronic".
"It is not feasible in any sense of the word for the UK to ban end-to-end encryption. It's a completely moronic and stupid thing to do. We all have a very strong interest in a safe and secure internet," he said.
Despite the new denials, prime minister David Cameron has said in the past that banning encryption is a viable option.
"The decision we have to take is, are we prepared to allow in future, as technology develops, safe spaces for terrorists to communicate? The principle I think we should adopt is that we are not content for that to happen, and as a result we should look to legislate accordingly," he said in the Commons in January.
The Snoopers' Charter, which is expected to increase government surveillance powers and widen the scope of data collection and retention, is expected to emerge in 2016.
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