The Five Country Ministerial of 2018 adopted a Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption on 3 September. Underlining that privacy is not absolute in the physical world if so a court authorizes, the group of counties stated that court decisions about legitimate access to data must also be upheld, otherwise law enforcement is unable detect and pursue criminals, including child sex offenders, terrorists and organized crime groups hiding behind encryption. The statement affirmed three principles in relation to encryption that each of the Five Eyes jurisdictions will consider how best to implement. The principle of mutual responsibility stated that providers of information and communications technology and services are subject to law and obliged to assist with the execution of lawful orders, while governments should understand that in rare cases access to information is not possible. The second principle stated that rule of law and due process protections are paramount in lawfully accessing information. The third principle stated service providers should create lawful access solutions to their products and services. However, the third principle also warned that should governments continue to meet obstacles to lawful access to information, they may pursue other means to achieve said access.
Encryption refers to the scrambling of electronic documents and communication into an unreadable format which can be read only through the use of encryption software. Traditionally, governments were the only players who had the power and the know-how to develop and deploy powerful encryption in their military and diplomatic communications. With user-friendly packages, encryption has become affordable for any Internet users, including criminals and terrorists. This triggered many governance issues related to finding the right balance between the need to respect privacy of communication of Internet users and the need for governments to monitor some types of communication of relevance for the national security (potential criminal and terrorist activity remains an issue).