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December 27, 2015

China anti-terrorism law makes firms give up encryption keys

by John_A

If you were hoping that you could regularly rely on encrypted messaging services to keep your discussions private while you’re in China, you’re about to be disappointed. The country has passed an anti-terrorism law that requires companies to hand over encryption keys when officials want to spy on someone’s communications. Officials swear that this isn’t tantamount to requiring backdoors, but it’s not exactly heartening news if you rely on any app or website where it’s feasible to request those keys.

Some services are theoretically safe. For instance, Apple’s iMessage is designed in such a way that even Apple can’t obtain the keys and crack codes. That sets up a potential conflict, however: what happens if Chinese courts order these services to fork over keys that they can’t possibly deliver? While the odds of that happening aren’t high (especially as the companies bring a lot of money to the country), they’re high enough that they could make some tech giants uncomfortable. No matter what, there are some firms that now have to sacrifice your privacy if they want to continue operating in the world’s most populous nation.

[Image credit: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images]

Source: Reuters

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