While most of our free and fearless press is looking at the rolling car crash that is Brexit, the Tories are showing that their claims of increased freedom - one of the reasons, supposedly, for leaving the EU - are so much bunk. We know this as deeply unpleasant Home Secretary Priti Patel has signalled that she wants more snooping, more surveillance, and by doing so more opportunities for cyber criminals.
As the Independent has reported, “Tory home secretary says government should be allowed to read people’s WhatsApp messages”. She does? “The home secretary has claimed end-to-end encryption of Facebook’s messaging platforms would hinder police investigations into child abuse and terror plots … After the Five Eyes security summit, which took place on Monday and Tuesday, Priti Patel said tech firms should not ‘empower criminals’ with their products”. So what does she propose?
For WhatsApp and Telegram, “only the message sender and the receiver can see its content. The platform itself cannot read the messages, meaning there is no way for investigators to obtain information on criminal activity directly from the firms. Facebook is considering using end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct”.
Is she proposing what I think she’s proposing? “Ms Patel called for tech companies to provide a ‘back door’ into such messaging apps, which could be used by law enforcement organisations to tackle crime”. She is indeed proposing that. And that’s out of order.
The Indy notes that after Amber Rudd made a similar proposal in 2017, “calling for laws to build back doors into end-to-end encrypted messaging services as a crime-fighting tool … The plans were met with criticism at the time from Robert Hannigan, a former head of GCHQ, who claimed they would amount to ‘weakening security for everybody to tackle a minority’”. A back door is a back door to anyone. Including criminals.
And Ms Patel faces opposition from her own side on this: Big Brother Watch, a campaign that came out of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, has told “There is no such thing as an encryption backdoor just for Government. A backdoor for the UK Government would be a backdoor for anyone. This policy is built on [misinformation] & is a power grab for unprecedented surveillance of public comms”. There was more.
“It's a bit like authorities saying they no longer want to force entry to suspects' properties - they want a secret key to every house … Today's announcement is evidence if needed that spooks write the rules here + there is a democratic vacuum on state surveillance issues. The encryption backdoor agenda predates Patel. Does she understand the issue..? Did she actually write the Telegraph op ed..?” QTWTAIN.
Priti Patel was clueless on crime and punishment, memorably being taken apart during a BBC Question Time exchange with Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. She’s most likely equally clueless on the issue of encryption and security. If she doesn’t understand the issue, she shouldn’t be sounding off on it - unless and until she gets knowledgeable about it.
We don’t need a Home Secretary who hasn’t mastered the brief. End of story.
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