It seems that every time we have a high profile terrorist attack, politicians, with alarming alacrity, seize on the opportunity to demand extra snooping powers. This used to be New Labour’s domain, but now it’s the turn of David Cameron. Our esteemed PM wants to allow our security services to view the content of encrypted messaging services:

Mr Cameron told ITV News: “I think we cannot allow modern forms of communication to be exempt from the ability, in extremis, with a warrant signed by the Home Secretary, to be exempt from being listened to.”

(That is very nearly a coherent sentence)

On the same day, The Independent spun similar comments made by Cameron into the following article:

WhatsApp and iMessage could be banned under new surveillance plans

David Cameron could block WhatsApp and Snapchat if he wins the next election, as part of his plans for new surveillance powers announced in the wake of the shootings in Paris.

The Prime Minister said today that he would stop the use of methods of communication that cannot be read by the security services even if they have a warrant. But that could include popular chat and social apps that encrypt their data, such as WhatsApp.

Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime also encrypt their data, and could fall under the ban along with other encrypted chat apps like Telegram.

The Guardian was kind enough to supply the original quote:

In extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call, to mobile communications,” Cameron said. “The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not.”

David, you are not the Prime Minister of North Korea. Policies like this will only lose you votes.

There are dozens of encrypted chat clients out there. Do you really want the security service spending all of their time play Whack-a-Mole with the online development community? The government and security services will be chasing their own tails for eternity trying to solve this problem. It is stupid idea, unenforcible, futile, and counter-productive.

Any half baked measure to introduce back door access or lower encryption standards will be an open invitation to hackers. It might give the government what they want, but we will all be worse off for it.

Also, as Guido points out:

However, Dave can take heart that he’s not in this fight alone, the other countries where there are known domestic controls on the use of encryption are Russia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Israel, Tunisia and Morocco.

That’s one hell of a club Dave’s trying to sign us up to…


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