Now Cameron’s attack on free speech focuses on encryption – attacking commerce as well

On Monday David Cameron managed a rare political treble: he proposed a policy that is draconian, stupid and economically destructive.

The prime minister made comments widely interpreted as proposing a ban on end-to-end encryption in messages – the technology that protects online communications, shopping, banking, personal data and more.

“[I]n our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”, the prime minister asked rhetorically.

To most people in a supposed liberal democracy, the answer would surely be “yes”: the right to privacy runs right in parallel to our right for free expression. If you can’t say something to a friend or family member without the fear the government, your neighbour or your boss will overhear, your free expression is deeply curtailed.

This means that even in principle Cameron’s approach is darkly paradoxical: the attack on Paris was an attack on free expression – but it’s the government that intends to land the killing blow.

Source: Cameron wants to ban encryption – he can say goodbye to digital Britain | James Ball | Comment is free | The Guardian

16 thoughts on “Now Cameron’s attack on free speech focuses on encryption – attacking commerce as well

  1. maxwell1957

    I am coming to the conclusion that ” Our Glorious Leader ” definitely belongs to the
    ” Making-it-up-as-they-go-along ” school of political thinking.

  2. Neilth

    The intellectual pygmies who comprise this appalling government keep on surprising us as to the depths they will sink. They have proved unable to understand the law of unintended consequences and keep firing off ill thought out pronouncements and proposals in an attempt to be seen to be ‘doing something’. Unfortunately the effect is much the same as that of a large elephant with chronic diarrhoea (and about the same consistency. What they will be seen to be doing is introducing ever more restrictive rules on the majority in order to protect the ‘freedoms’ of the wealthy minority who can afford to subvert or avoid those restrictions much as they avoid paying their fair contributions to society.
    I’m sure these proposals will not have the impact on capital movement etc suggested in the article as the companies will move the operation of the communications offshore thus avoiding both the restrictions and even more of their taxes.

  3. M de Mowbray

    CaMoron’s intellectual and philosophical understanding of “Freedom” extends no further than the “FREEDOM TO AGREE WITH ME”

  4. Dave Rowlands

    The article was published in January 2015 and nothing more has been published about this idiotic plan. The guy is a major plonker, I guess that’s what it takes to be a prime minister of the UK in these modern times.

  5. hayfords

    The end to end crypto ban applies to messages. The comments did not apply to secure banking transactions and similar. It has been jumped on by those with various privacy issues and blown out of proportion.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Even if that’s true, look what the Guardian article has to say about it: “If instead the prime minister is proposing it is only encrypted messaging that’s banned, the picture becomes hardly any clearer: if my Amazon online shopping session includes an ability to message a seller, is that now banned? Will the government produce a list of people who are allowed to use encryption?

      “Most messaging apps are global, and not built in the UK. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, is unlikely to wish to dismantle the central privacy and security feature of his company’s iMessage tool at the whim of the government of one small island. The choice he then faces is whether to operate in the UK or not. The prime minister who intended to build “digital Britain” instead risks building an isolated, analogue nation.”

      And that’s only if your claim is accurate.

      What makes you think it is?

      1. hayfords

        Yes. The messaging to the seller on Amazon might be included as there is not the necessity for it to be encrypted. The point about what Cameron said is that messages should not be allowed where the carrier or originating software will not reveal the crypto keys to the authorities. Apple will not be a problem, nor will other companies be as the US is planning the same system. That is largely why we will do it. There is already legislation now that would effectively cover it. If you have a disk drive or files that the authorities would like to read then to withhold the key is already a serious offence and has been for years. When there are good reasons, you have no legal privacy.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        But your “good reasons” are “the authorities would like to read” other people’s messages. That won’t cut any ice with people who want their privacy to be respected. The Human Rights Act provides an explicit right to respect for UK citizens’ private lives – and that Act has not been repealed (yet) – nor should it be.

  6. hayfords

    The authorities only read the message with good cause. There are far too many to read on a regular basis. Messages are read when there is cause. If it wasn’t for the phone traffic that was stored, but not yet read, the 7/7 bombers would have been more difficult to investigate. It was the traffic between them that enabled the bigger picture to be seen. The stories about surveillance, traffic and chatter are only what the media publish. The whole process is far bigger and wide ranging and for good reasons.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Whose word do you have for that claim? The authorities’.
      Who watches them to make sure they stick to their word?
      We have the least trustworthy government for decades. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet members lie to Parliament on a regular basis and are not held accountable for their actions – and you want us to believe their propaganda!
      I would want a very stringent – and independent – system of regulation to be installed before any public authority was allowed to monitor communications. There should be heavy restrictions on what the government could read – and serious, personal, financial and criminal penalties for any minister whose department breaches them.
      And I would not want any private company taking a contract to carry out such work.
      Is any of that forthcoming? No.
      In that case, let’s not have any more talk of the government killing encryption.
      Your own comment about 7/7 shows it isn’t needed.

  7. hayfords

    The authorities will continue to monitor communications irrespective of what regulation you put in place because it is necessary. I know from personal knowledge that it has been that way since at least 1971 under every single government. There are numerous ways around any legislation that is put in place. In many ways your privacy is better than it was years ago. There used to be large scale phone tapping and that has reduced enormously and now is subject to legal permission. The current obsession with privacy is misguided. If it was not for current methods of surveillance there would have been several major terrorist incidents just in the last year or so. No government of any type will tell you the real truth about its intelligence activities. For instance, the security services have access to most consumer transaction databases, ranging from travel (ferries, trains, planes, oyster cards), finance (banks, credit cards) and plenty of others. Once a target is identified then combining the above with communications and contacts produces what is called ‘big data’ and can be linked to other targets. If you are worried about privacy then you should look at the permissions you allow when installing android apps on your smartphone, tablet. Just try installing some of the free games. Try Bubble Witch for instance. It will ask for permission to read your WiFi connection information, your photos and media, your device ID and phone call information, your browsing history etc. Now why would it want those. And for most people, their location is available. That topic alone is enough for a whole blog. Those apps can see your messages as well!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      At what point, then, do we move from a position where the authorities are protecting us to one where we need protection from them? If you can’t answer that, you shouldn’t be supporting this.
      You are saying that governments are ignoring the rule of law. If you were able to produce any solid evidence, you should be able to jail every government member for the last 44 years – but I notice that you haven’t done so. Perhaps your comment is just words on a screen.
      Look at what you say about phone tapping – it used to happen a lot but now it doesn’t because it’s subject to legal permission. That directly contradicts everything you’ve been saying about monitoring internet communications – including the first sentence of the same comment.
      Show us detailed proof of your claims about consumer transaction databases so we can take your government to court and have ministers jailed.
      Thanks but I won’t install any of the games you mention. I don’t give out the permissions you describe – and I wouldn’t have time to play the game.
      I’m not playing your game, either.

  8. hayfords

    I used to own a software company. We used to run direct marketing databases as well. I used to send out what you might call junk mail, but what we would call targeted marketing. We would send out at least 1m letters a month. I know from my knowledge of the business that most of the databases are used to find people and that includes the NHS’s own files. That is about all I can tell you.

    Going back to the games, they are installed in the hundreds of millions across the globe. The US in particular have access in real time to the data on peoples’ devices. That is a far bigger problem than a bit of surveillance in the UK. You don’t have to install the games. Just start the process and decline the permissions to abort the processand you will see what they are asking for.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Ah, well the NHS files were sold by the government, against the will of the people, of course.
      Why do you keep going back to the games? People choose to install them. We’re discussing surveillance that takes place whether people choose it or not.

  9. hayfords

    The NHS files have not been sold. It is a myth. The metadata has been sold. It does not identify people at an individual level. It is demographics.

    Apps loaded onto phones is very important. I am sure that even you have apps on your phone. It is not only games, but apps preloaded when purchased that have security issues. That includes the basic operating system on iphones and many androids. Most large US tech companies at complicit in surveillance for government.

    To go back to the legal situation, it is legal for us to colect data on US citizens but not the US themselves and the same the other way around. Consequently we hold their data and they hold ours. World communications are mainly one large network where anyone with sufficient permission can monitor what they want. There is almost certainly facilities offshore from the US and UK where it could all be done outside jurisdictions.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It has been shown that whatever has been sold can be used to identify the individuals concerned. Read my articles on the subject.
      Your preoccupation with phone apps is fascinating. We’re not discussing those – we’re discussing government incursions into our privacy.
      Thanks for the information in the third paragraph but it was already known.

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