India to Join the “Five Eyes” Encryption Backdoor Alliance

By Bill Toulas / October 12, 2020

According to an international joint statement, India is going to join the “Five Eyes” encryption backdoor and intelligence alliance. The last time the “Five Eyes” accepted new members was in January 2020, when South Korea, Japan, and France were welcomed by the United States, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.

This information-exchange platform is meant to empower its members with key data collected by others, creating a powerful circle of intelligence. Beyond the “Five Eyes,” there are the “Nine Eyes” and the “Fourteen Eyes,” which include more countries but have a looser interchange.

Seeing India directly entering the “inner circle” comes as a surprise at first, but when considering the ongoing situation with China, the underlying reasons become obvious. The United States, who is practically orchestrating the operations of these international intelligence platforms, is escalating its enmity with China and is recruiting whoever has akin interests. India is ticking all the boxes right now, as they are engaging in both a trade war against China and they maintain military tense on the borders too.

Moreover, the Indian state has demonstrated a certain level of comfort when it comes to regulating the software space, and also the internet, and in the end, this is what the recent statement is about. It follows the stereotypical approach of linking end-to-end encryption with increased public safety levels, suggesting that private communications foster terrorism, underage sexual abuse, crime, etc.

The statement makes an open call to tech firms to join the “Five Eyes” alliance’s effort to keep the public safe and promote the development of ways that maintain user privacy while allowing the governments to scrape data in a targeted manner. This sounds like an oxymoron, and it really is practically impossible to achieve without sacrificing user privacy.

Could that be an omen that India will ramp up its efforts to spy on the messages that are exchanged on WhatsApp, or Messenger, or Telegram, or Signal? For this to happen, the companies that make this software will have to agree to provide a backdoor, and that’s very unlikely to happen. The other way to go would be for India to ban any app that won’t comply with new regulations, but that will be quite hard to implement unilaterally.

The real development here is that the anti-encryption wave is rising higher, with more advocates taking that side. The more global the movement, the better the chances of its success. India has just joined in, and according to another recent report by the EFF, the European Union is close to introducing a similar pan-European law, targeting end-to-end encryption.

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