The Secretary of the interior, Amber Rudd has accused the expert of “technology paternalism” and “derision” to the politicians who seek to regulate their industry.
He said Silicon Valley had to do more to help the authorities access messages end-to-end encrypted services such as WhatsApp.
And she said that she does not need to understand how they have worked to know they were “helping the criminals”.
He was talking to a Spectator fringe meeting at the Conservative conference.The encryption of messages is a problem – Rudd
All messages sent on WhatsApp end-to-end encryption, in the sense that they are unreadable if intercepted by anyone, the application of the law and WhatsApp.
The service is being used by some Mps, including Tory backbenchers, for the exchange of confidential gossip, the meeting was told.
Ms Rudd is concerned, and other encrypted services, which are provided by Facebook and Google, among others, are used by terrorists to plot attacks.
She insisted that she does not want to “ports” installed in the encryption codes, something that the industry has warned weaken security for all users, and do not want to ban encryption, to allow easier access by the police and the security services.
Asked by an audience member, if he understood how the end-to-end encryption actually worked, she said: “It’s so easy to be popular in this business. We will do our best to understand.
“We will take advice from other people, but I have the feeling that there is a sea of critiques for any of us to try to legislate in new areas, that will automatically be sneered and laughed at for not getting it in the right way.”
He added: “I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how to help – end-to-end encryption – criminals.
“I interact with the security services to find the best way to fight this.”
Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, which represents Google, Microsoft, Amazon and other tech giants, said that it was an “understandable goal” for the secretary of the interior to “want to remove from the end-to-end”.
But, he continued, “because it is just math and has been invented can be uninvented”.
“Then, even if each company that we represent has said, ‘ok, we are to disable encryption’ are only weakening the security for all in this room, but that of mathematics, that technology still exists for others for use on other platforms.”
“I’m not suggesting that you give the code,” the home secretary shot back, saying of him: “I understand the principle of end-to-end encryption – cannot be discarded. That is one that has been developed.
“What I’m saying, is that the firms that are in development that need to work with us.”
He added that “we don’t have that help – even if sometimes we are in a fulsome way after an event that took place”.
He said at the meeting, the Silicon Valley has a “moral” obligation to do more to help the fight against crime and terrorism.