The bill would empower the U.K. government, in certain situations, to demand that online platforms use government-approved software to search through all users' photos, files, and messages, scanning for illegal content. Online services that don't comply can be subject to extreme penalties, including criminal penalties.
Such a backdoor scanning system can and will be exploited by bad actors. It will also produce false positives, leading to false accusations of child abuse that will have to be resolved. That's why the OSB is incompatible with end-to-end encryption—and human rights. EFF has strongly opposed this bill from the start.
Now, with the bill on the verge of becoming U.K. law, the U.K. government has sheepishly acknowledged that it may not be able to make use of some aspects of this law. During a final debate over the bill, a representative of the government said that orders to scan user files "can be issued only where technically feasible," as determined by Ofcom, the U.K.'s telecom regulatory agency. He also said any such order must be compatible with U.K. and European human rights law.
That's a notable step back, since previously the same representative, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said in a letter to the House of Lords that the technology that would magically make invasive scanning co-exist with end-to-end encryption already existed. "We have seen companies develop such solutions for platforms with end-to-end encryption before," wrote Lord Parkinson in that letter.