Cameron calls for an end to privacy

January 13, 2015 | 10:44

Tags: #cory-doctorow #cryptography #encryption #privacy #security #terror #terrorism

Companies: #david-cameron #government #uk-government

Prime Minister David Cameron has called for 'very intrusive' new legislation to prevent use of messaging technologies the government and its intelligence agencies cannot read, using the attack on Charlie Hebdo and its aftermath as justification.

For those who shy away from the mainstream news, satirical French publication Charlie Hebdo was attacked last week by a trio of murderers using its publication of insulting cartoons featuring the prophet Muhammed as an excuse to kill twelve people. Those responsible claimed to have carried out the attacks on behalf of Islam, a religion - like most others - which includes various laws against the killing of innocents in its holy texts. Regardless of motive, the purpose of the attack was clear: an attempt to coerce others into a particular political path through violence or intimidation, otherwise known as terrorism.

Now, David Cameron appears to be suggesting that he is adjusting his political path as a result of the attacks - a victory, it must be agreed, for the terrorists. At an event in Nottingham this week, Cameron claimed the Paris attack showed that new privacy-busting legislation was required. Voluntarily describing his proposed new law as 'very intrusive,' Cameron told attendees that 'if I am in government' following the next election, a law will be introduced which bans all forms of communication that the government's security services cannot access.

'The first duty of any government is to keep our country and people safe. The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe,' Cameron told attendees of the Conservative campaign meeting yesterday. 'The next government will have to legislate again in 2016. If I am Prime Minister I will make sure that it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that does not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other.

'That is the key principle: do we allow terrorists safer spaces for them to talk to each other? I say no, we don’t – and we should legislate accordingly. The powers that I believe we need, whether on communications data [metadata] or on the content of communications, I feel very comfortable these are absolutely right for a modern, liberal democracy.

Cameron's proposed legislation would, effectively, outlaw any form of cryptography which the government's intelligence services cannot bypass. 'What matters is that we can access this communications data,' he explained, 'whether people are using fixed phones, mobile phones or more modern ways of communicating via the Internet.' Such a law would make services like encrypted virtual private network (VPN) connections illegal to use in the UK, and likely require other cryptography systems such as the Transport Layer Security (TLS) used to secure web traffic to be either significantly downgraded or be installed with a back-door certificate which would allow the intelligence services full access.

Privacy campaigners are, naturally, aghast at the notion. Author and campaigner Cory Doctorow has compared the proposal to similar laws in place in 'Syria, Russia, and Iran' and claims that 'David Cameron doesn't understand technology very well, so he doesn't actually know what he's asking for.

'If any commodity PC or jailbroken phone can run any of the world's most popular communications applications, then "bad guys" will just use them,
' Doctorow wrote in a response to Cameron's proposal. 'Jailbreaking an OS isn't hard. Downloading an app isn't hard. Stopping people from running code they want to run is - and what's more, it puts the whole nation - individuals and industry - in terrible jeopardy.'
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