Author: Sian Bradley
Conservative party member Amber Rudd has resigned as Home Secretary. The announcement came following the Windrush immigration scandal, during which Rudd claimed to not have set deportation targets. Yet on Sunday, The Guardian published a letter addressed to Theresa May in which Rudd did indeed set out targets to deport 10% more illegal immigrants over the “next few years”.
Fellow Conservative Sajid Javid will replace Rudd. Whilst the Home Secretary’s main focus is on immigration and citizenship, they also have remit over policing and national security, which often feature tech in some way. So, what did Rudd do for the UK’s burgeoning technology industry, and what can we expect from her successor?
The majority of Rudd’s work on tech policy, especially in 2017, was based on anti-terrorism efforts. Alongside a huge £707m pot to support law enforcement in tackling terrorism, in July 2017, Rudd spearheaded plans to change end-to-end encryption laws, amid government worries that the technology was being leveraged by terrorists to help them plot attacks. In the wake of the Manchester Attack, the government moved to enforce powers that would mean the likes of Apple and Facebook would have to hand over encrypted messages to terror investigations. Rudd had to approve each order, which would mean police and MI5 could request encryption to be removed from messages sent by suspects.
In October 2017, encryption came up again when Rudd admitted to not understanding the technology that keeps messages on Whatsapp and iMessage secure, but wanting to ban or alter it, anyway. She reportedly said: “I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how it’s helping […] the criminals. I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that”.
The government was worried that end-to-end encryption prevented them from reading terrorists’ and criminals’ messages – but experts warned that the same technology also keeps private citizens from having their messages read by criminals, and is used to secure banking technologies, among other functions.
Off the back of this, Rudd accused tech experts of “patronising” and “sneering” at politicians who try to regulate their industry. She said that Silicon Valley types should have been doing more to support authorities when it comes to counter-terrorism attempts.