Online safety and end-to-end encryption can co-exist, says data protection watchdog. But how?

By stopping third parties from scrutinizing content, E2EE can effectively create a safe harbour for criminal activity.  

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Despite recent controversies, end-to-end encryption should not be weakened, the UK’s data protection watchdog has concluded – while acknowledging that some additional measures are needed to mitigate the potential harms that can stem from the privacy-protecting technology. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent body that oversees information rights in the UK, has published the results of initial deliberations that were carried out on end-to-end encryption (E2EE), in light of a years-long debate that has divided governments, social media platforms and freedom-of-speech activist groups. 

E2EE has long been seen as a way to protect users’ online privacy, by encrypting content in communications channels so that only the sender or recipient can access the information. This prevents any third party from accessing the data, including the provider of the platform or law enforcement agencies. 

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The method is one of the most reliable approaches to data protection, and is increasingly seen as a golden standard for privacy. At the same time, users are growing more aware of

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