David Cameron Insists On No Encryption In The UK
‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence.’
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
David Cameron managed a few months ago to opine a political hat-trick: he proposed a policy that is oppressive, naive and economically disastrous.
The prime minister of Gt.Britain made comments widely interpreted as proposing a ban on end-to-end encryption in messages – a dictators wet dream no less. The technology is designed to protect not just online communications but shopping, banking, personal data and a lot more.
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“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”, the prime minister asked rhetorically.
In Britain, we take for granted a supposed liberal democracy, so the answer is emphatically YES. Our right to privacy has similar meaning to us as civil liberty and our rights to free expression. When did speaking to our loved ones, employers, neighbours, loose business connections on Linkedin and so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook or whatever become the stalking grounds of the government? Our civil liberties and rights to free expression is deeply curtailed by these actions.
Two weeks ago WIRED reported that “The UK government still wants to fundamentally undermine encryption in the name of national security, despite a spokesperson for Number 10 saying the prime minister does not want to ban encryption after all.
Media reports claimed the prime minister had performed a “u-turn” on his apparent plan to ban encryption to ensure terrorists had no “safe space” to communicate online”
The latest comments from Number 10 do not in fact suggest a change of position at all.
Encrypted services such as Blackberry Messenger, used by Cameron himself to protect his communications from prying eyes, presumably of governments including our own, work by encoding the message at the point it is sent and decoding it once confirmed as the correct recipient at the other end. Without the system generated keys being the correct ones, the message is impossible to to decipher.
Banning these Apps would be impossible, they are widely available from home and abroad and the use of a Virtual Private Network or VPN allows any user to download these Apps from servers in different countries. The only way to stop these Apps would be to filter out the British internet system – something that even the most oppressive of regimes have been unable to do.
Banning them would also criminalise millions of foreign business visitors and holidaymakers with the Apps already installed. What next – the North Korean option where the authorities search for and confiscate mobile phones on entry? It’s probable that even David Cameron might experience a degree of resistance on that one!
Forcing these companies to hand over encryption keys doesn’t work as they don’t have them – only the devices that they are installed on have them and most systems create new keys each time encryption is used or requested, previous keys are then impossible to recover.
The only way forward for the British government would be to demand that these companies include a ‘back-door‘ through it’s encryption that would allow the government access. Needless to say, this also gives access to any competent hackers, terrorists and spies with the will.
System and software technologists are already on record as stating their position quite clearly. If an encryption system can be broken by the government, it can be broken by anyone.
Barack Obama has tried this, come up against strong opposition and backed down.
If the UK’s position is to continue with it’s plan to have access to encrypted systems by whatever means, then the UK stands alongside the only nations that do this, namely, Iran, North Korea and China and they all have something in common when it comes to privacy and free speech.
Does the government and it’s spooks all think that terrorists are using Snapchat and Facebook to plan atrocities across the west? Maybe it was true that a near 60 year old man with Kidney failure on a dialysis machine deep inside a mountain in Afghanistan was able to get a Snapchat message through to the terrorists that attacked America the final go-ahead – but probably not.
ISIS is known globally for its technical expertise and has been pointed out on many occasions, there are numerous online building blocks to create self generated fully encrypted messaging services. Indeed even the less tech-savvy al-Qaeda knocked up their own system years ago from freely available code on the internet – the spooks know this.
The government knows this. They know that intervention into all its citizens private conversations and communications is not only illegal, its immoral and most importantly has not stopped a single terrorist from dong anything like the government suggests.
Whatever David Cameron and Theresa May do when it comes to the mass invasion of our privacy as one of the most surveilled citizens on the planet, it will fall short of eliminating his so called ‘safe space’ for terrorists.
In the meantime, many companies and individuals will not invest in business ideas in a country faced with such draconian, outdated and tyrannical powers that fully eliminates their online security.
As Paul Zimmerman from Pretty Good Privacy, the creator of the most widely used email encryption software in the world says –
“If you have strong encryption between your web browser and your bank, you can’t have a man-in-the-middle from the government wiretapping that”
Article by TruePublica