Amber Rudd has said “real people” do not want secure end-to-end encryption on messaging services.
The Home Secretary will warn internet giants today that terrorists are misusing their platforms when she visits Silicon Valley.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Rudd said: “Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family?
“So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption or create so called ‘back doors’.
“Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and ‘usability’, and it is here where our experts believe opportunities may lie.
“Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security.”
Renate Samson Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch said Rudd’s comments were “at best naïve, at worst dangerous”.
“Suggesting that people don’t really want security from their online services is frankly insulting, what of those in society who are in dangerous or vulnerable situations, let alone those of us who simply want to protect our communications from breach, hack or cybercrime,” she said.
“Once again the Government are attempting to undermine the security of all in response to the actions of a few. We are all digital citizens, we all deserve security in the digital space.”
In her speech today, Rudd will challenge the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google to do more to remove extremist content.
Major technology organisations have repeatedly faced calls to step up efforts to detect and take down terror-related videos and web pages, and pressure for fresh action has intensified after Britain was hit by a flurry of attacks.
The companies have launched the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to seek out technical solutions and draw up “counter-narratives”.
Speaking at the forum’s inaugural meeting in San Francisco, Rudd will acknowledge the work firms have already done.
She will also highlight the work of a UK police unit which has secured the removal of 280,000 pieces of terrorist content and the closure of millions of accounts since 2010.
But the home secretary will emphasise that more needs to be done and the threat cannot be downplayed.
“Terrorists and extremists have sought to misuse your platforms to spread their hateful messages,” Rudd is expected to say.
“This Forum is a crucial way to start turning the tide. The responsibility for tackling this threat at every level lies with both governments and with industry.
“We have a shared interest: we want to protect our citizens and keep the free and open internet we all love. Today’s meeting of the Forum is the next step towards achieving these goals.”
Rudd is visiting Silicon Valley to hold a number of meetings with the main communication service providers.
Earlier this year, a committee of MPs accused social media firms of a “shameful” failure to tackle online terrorist propaganda and hate speech.