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Railing against the use of encryption by criminals has always been an exercise in futility, but it’s a great way to sound tough. What better way to assert your power as a law-enforcer than by demanding the impossible?
The problem is, there’s a line between swagger and overt foolishness, and for some reason politicians are increasingly deciding to hurl themselves over it — witness, for example, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull declaring earlier this year that “the laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia.”
The British home secretary, Amber Rudd, has now decided to follow the path of Turnbull by proudly announcing not only that she doesn’t understand how end-to-end encryption works, but that she does not need to understand it in order to fight it.
Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference, Rudd said:
“I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how it’s helping — end-to-end encryption — the criminals. I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that.”
That gem came in response to a question from someone in the audience about whether she understood what she was talking about, after she said she didn’t want to ban end-to-end encryption and also didn’t want to put back doors in encrypted communications services, but she did want to “allow easier access by police and the security services.”
Rudd also said:
“It’s so easy to be patronised in this business. We will do our best to understand it. We will take advice from other people but I do feel that there is a