By Ashley Young-
Facebook has been accused of giving a “free pass” to terrorists with its plans for end-to-end encryption, the new head of M15 has claimed.
Ken McCallum warned that the plans by the social media giant’s chief Mark Zuckerberg to allow end to end encryption would enable terrorists to plot attacks without being visible to the security services.
He told the Times Radio: “It is the case, especially around default encryption, that decisions taken in California boardrooms are every bit as relevant to our ability to do our jobs as decisions taken in Afghanistan or Syria,” he said.
He said that if they had information someone was building a bomb or filming a martyrdom video in their living room they would be able to apply for a warrant from the Home Secretary and a senior judge.
“We would then be able to access that room, have a look at whether a bomb is indeed being built or not. And we need to have that ability online also,” he said.
“If you have end-to-end default encryption with absolutely no means of unwrapping that encryption, you are in effect giving those rare people – terrorists or people who are organising child sexual abuse online, some of the worst people in our society – a free pass where they know that nobody can see into what they are doing in those private living rooms.
Mr McCallum said they were not seeking to build a “surveillance state” with “a camera in everyone’s living room”.
He added: “What we do need is that on those rare occasions, where there is a concern of very, very substantial proportions, that when a secretary of state and the judge has agreed that access to that information is necessary and proportionate, we do need the companies to have built a means for us to work in partnership with them, in that rare case, to access the content of those communications.
Facebook say their new end to end encryption is designed to protect social media users from hackers. Security has always been an issue for online users, but police say the need to control the threat posed from child abusers, traffickers, and terrorists outweighs those raised by facebook.
The alarm raised will force discussions with facebook to review their current plans and accommodate collaboration with law enforcement agents for the proportionate monitoring of particular accounts.