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Majority of Brits would sacrifice privacy to prevent terror, but experts say it would make us less safe

  • Two-thirds (66%) polled said intercepting communication between terrorists was more valuable than privacy
  • More than half (51%) said they would feel safer if WhatsApp and other messages were unencrypted
  • A quarter (25%) said that they would feel less safe as criminals could more easily access their private details
  • Security experts interviewed by Cable.co.uk are adamant the move would at best achieve nothing and likely make us less safe

Tuesday, 4 April 2017: A new poll by Cable.co.uk found that 66% of UK adults believe the police and intelligence agencies' ability to intercept communication between terrorist plotters is more valuable than the digital privacy of the population as a whole. Full story is available to read here.

Only 18% of the 2,000 UK adults interviewed said they believe the general public's privacy when using WhatsApp and other messaging services is more valuable than organisations having power to potentially access messages sent by those planning terror attacks.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd called for the police and intelligence agencies to be given access to WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services after it emerged that Khalid Masood used WhatsApp minutes before he killed four people in a terror attack near the Houses of Parliament in London on 22 March.

In order for agencies to access WhatsApp and other messages, they would need to be unencrypted, meaning they were no longer converted into a code preventing unauthorised access.

More than half (51%) of those interviewed by Cable.co.uk said that the removal of encryption would, on the whole, make them feel safer knowing the police and intelligence agencies were able to intercept messages between terrorists. However, a quarter (25%) said that they would feel less safe as a result of hackers and other criminals being more easily able to access their messages and private details.

More men (23%) than women (14%) said the digital privacy of the population as a whole is more valuable than the ability to potentially intercept communication between terrorist plotters.

Meanwhile, more than a quarter of 25-34 year-olds (26%) compared to just one in ten over-55s (10%) deemed the digital privacy of the general population more valuable than agencies' ability to potentially access communication between those planning terrorist attacks.

Commenting on the findings Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Ofcom-accredited broadband advice site Cable.co.uk, says:

“I find it fascinating the general public is largely willing to hand over unprecedented surveillance powers to the government in an attempt to address a danger statistically on equal footing to that posed by bees.

“It's also a futile gesture. If commonly used apps such as WhatsApp and others are compromised in this way those who have the intent to do harm will simply use something even more secure. The government's call to access private messages is like decreeing all spoken conversations must be shouted – those who have nothing to hide will comply, while those with nefarious intent will whisper beyond our view."

Notes to editors

Cable.co.uk commissioned Atomik Research to interview 2,000 UK adults between 28 and 30 March 2017

Please contact us if you would like a full statistical breakdown of the results of our research

In return for using our reasearch and or commentary on UK telecoms issues, we would deeply appreciate a link to Cable.co.uk

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What is Cable?

Cable is a broadband, TV and phone comparator, unique news source and consumer champion.

Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades, running research fieldwork both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now consumer telecoms analyst at Cable, as well as more formally operating in the role of its Director of Communications and Content.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer, Dan has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers. Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality, administered Cable’s Broadband Service Quality Awards and sat on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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