Signal Stands Firm On Privacy: Threatens To Leave The U.K. If Forced To Compromise Encryption


Signal, the renowned messaging app known for its strong emphasis on privacy, has made a resolute statement regarding the recently passed Online Safety Bill in the U.K. Meredith Whittaker, the president of the Signal Foundation, which oversees the nonprofit app, reaffirmed that Signal would not hesitate to exit the U.K. if compelled to include “backdoors” in its end-to-end encryption.

Key Takeaway

Signal’s president, Meredith Whittaker, staunchly reiterated that the messaging app would exit the U.K. rather than compromising its encryption privacy by complying with the Online Safety Bill’s requirements. Signal remains dedicated to minimizing data collection to protect user confidentiality.

Risking Privacy for Compliance: The Online Safety Bill and Signal’s Stance

The Online Safety Bill, which was officially enacted in September, contains clause 122, which, in its interpretation, could grant the U.K.’s communications regulator, Ofcom, the authority to breach the encryption of apps and services under the pretense of combating illegal content. In the event of non-compliance, Ofcom possesses the power to issue fines to companies, potentially amounting to £18 million ($22.28 million) or 10% of their global annual revenue.

Whittaker expressed grave concerns about the implications of the Online Safety Bill. She firmly stated that Signal would not compromise its encryption principles and betray its users’ trust by complying with such mandates. She stressed, “We would leave the U.K. or any jurisdiction if it came down to the choice between backdooring our encryption […] or leaving.”

Emphasizing the prevalent surveillance fears associated with the Online Safety Bill, Whittaker conveyed Signal’s commitment to safeguarding user anonymity, regardless of local legislation. Signal takes deliberate measures to minimize data collection, thereby reducing the risk of breaches or subpoenas. Whittaker revealed that the information Signal currently retains is limited to users’ registered phone numbers and the last account access timestamp.

Signal’s Dedication to Privacy: A Catalyst for Success

Signal’s unwavering commitment to privacy has been pivotal in its success. As of January 2022, the app boasted approximately 40 million monthly active users and over 100 million downloads. Its popularity stems from a strict data retention policy, where the platform collects minimal user data to ensure maximum privacy. This approach has resonated with users seeking a messaging app that prioritizes confidentiality.

Looking Ahead: Encrypted Messaging as the Norm

Whittaker voiced optimism about the future of messaging apps and stressed the need for encryption to become synonymous with everyday communication. Despite the concerns raised by the U.K.’s Online Safety Bill, positive developments, such as Meta’s plans to introduce end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram, offer hope for a privacy-focused digital communication landscape. Whittaker urged the preservation of communication norms that have existed for centuries, where conversations remain free from surveillance and the risk of future subpoenas.

Signal’s steadfast stance on encryption and privacy challenges the status quo and signals a growing demand for secure messaging platforms in an increasingly data-conscious society.

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