British PM Promises to Outlaw Encrypted Private Messages


British Prime Minister David Cameron demonstrated both a commitment to enabling terrorists to erode civil liberties and a dangerous ignorance of technology. In a speech geared towards elections in May, Mr. Cameron promised to outlaw messaging services that encrypt messages unless they give his government a back door.

"In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?" Mr. Cameron said, according to The Independent.

I'm not in your country, Mr. Cameron, but in that my country has a long and storied relationship with yours, the answer over here is yes. We want to allow a means of communication between people that your government can't read.

Mr. Cameron wants backdoors into encrypted messaging services such as Apple's iMessage and SnapChat. This echoes comments from the DOJ and FBI Director James Comey, both of whom have attacked Apple for encrypting iOS devices and iMessages.

Like the UK's prime minister, the DOJ and Mr. Comey also want backdoors into those services. It's unclear if they are ignorant of the decades of security research showing that a backdoor available to the government is also available to everyone else.

Mr. Cameron takes what's been said in the U.S. and turns it up to 11 by promising to outlaw such services. Brits, it seems, have no right to privacy in Mr. Cameron's view. Worse, he is using the horrific attacks in France this past week against newspaper Charlie Hebdo to push this agenda.

Ars Technica noted that it's unclear if Mr. Cameron could achieve this heavy handed assault on privacy in the UK. It's tradition for politicians on both sides of the pond (if not everywhere) to promise to pass laws outlawing everything under the sun whether or not they can actually do so.

This ratcheting up of anti-privacy speech is important to folks in the UK, Europe, and in the U.S. Where one Western government goes, others usually follow, and this is particularly true when it comes to eroding civil rights and privacy.

So pay attention.

A reminder to spy agencies and politicians everywhere: do not confuse what you can do with what you should do.

A reminder to everyone else: vote.