GCHQ chief urges Government action over data encryption


The head of GCHQ has called for politicians to set out the boundaries on the use of data as he called for greater co-operation between technology companies and spy agencies over the issues of encryption.

Robert Hannigan said there should be a "pragmatic" way of responding to the issue of encryption, adding that only a small number of people misused encoding of data, the BBC reported.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Mr Hannigan said: "It is not for me, as an intelligence official and civil servant, or for a law enforcement officer to make these broad judgments, whether about the use of data in general or encryption in particular; nor is it for tech company colleagues, nor even for independent academics.

"Since the trade-offs are for society as a whole, it must surely be for elected representatives to decide the parameters of what is acceptable."

His comments came as Apple's head of software criticised the FBI for trying to "turn back the clock to a less secure time" in the row over iPhone unlocking.

The British Government would not outlaw the type of end-to-end encryption at the centre of the row between the FBI and Apple, but will call for companies to take reasonable, practical steps to make data available when needed.

Mr Hannigan said: "Within the parameters set by legislation, it should be possible for technical experts to sit down together and work out solutions to particular manifestations of the abuse of encryption."

He said it was important for government agencies and companies to work together to find solutions to issues around encryption, and called for more innovation to help deal with today's challenges over data.

"The solution is not, of course, that encryption should be weakened, let alone banned," he said. "But neither is it true that nothing can be done without weakening encryption."