UK Government Plans Huge Manipulative Ad Campaign Against Private Chat Encryption

cyber security news
End-to-end Encryption for most people this is something invisible they never even think about, but for just about everyone who uses messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal and many others, this is an absolute necessity for privacy.

In a recent report by Rolling Stone it was revealed that the UK Government Home Office is set to launch a massive £534,000 advertising campaign against the practice of utilizing end-to-end encryption utilizing public funds. Hiring the advertising agency M&C Saatchi, a spin-off of Saatchi and Saatchi who made "Labour Isn't Working" election posters, to run the campaign, the advertising plans seem to include messaging targeted at making the viewer feel uneasy about child safety and other sensitive topics. A Home Office spokesperson was quoted as stating "We have engaged M&C Saatchi to bring together the many organizations who share our concerns about the impact end-to-end encryption would have on our ability to keep children safe."

Priti Pratel Portrait
Priti Pratel, UK Home Office Secretary

While the concern to "keep children safe" is obviously a noble, most Home Office Secretaries have shared in having strong anti-encryption stances, claiming that the technology can diminish the UK's bulk surveillance capabilities and make things such as organized crime and terrorist attacks harder to prevent. These same kinds of arguments have been made by other government organizations such as the FBI, claims that have been universally debunked by security professionals. Additionally many of these claims come in stark contrast to other government agencies within the same nations, with end-to-end encryption requirements in fields such as healthcare, such as the US's HIPAA, Canada's CHA, and the UK's NHS.

This new ad campaign, according to M&C Saatchi, is focused entirely on the concerns of child exploitation with goals on partnerships with non-profit organizations and charities which focus specifically on anti-child exploitation goals. One of the claims M&C Saatchi's advertising campaign makes is that "most people have never heard of end-to-end encryption," going on to assert that this can allow people to be easily swayed. According to the Rolling Stone report, one planned advertisement in the campaign is to have a child actor and an adult actor in a glass box, while the adults looks on at the child "knowingly" before privacy glass fades to black, implying a less than acceptable situation between the two.

Boris Johnson news
Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

Director of Internet Trust at the Internet Society stated that The Home Office is "scaremongering" and goes on to stated that "without strong encryption, children are more vulnerable online than ever. Encryption protects personal safety and national security ... what the government is proposing puts everyone at risk."

Part of the intent of this advertising campaign is to garner favor in public opinion against Facebook's recent decision to add encryption to its messenger app.