The prospect of losing a smidgen of the data hoovered up by law enforcement has worried one police chief enough to effectively ‘terror Godwin’ the entire conversation, which shows that good is happening with privacy, for a change.
The prospect of security awareness and actual cryptography in the hands of regular citizens has the disturbing habit of sending agents of the state into all manner of silly name calling.
Long before Australia’s chief law officer decided that he was able to determine whether Edward Snowden was a traitor to the United States — which, the argument goes, led directly to the need for Australia to implement a mandatory data-retention scheme — encryption was going to destroy the ability for police and spy agencies to do their work.
In one of the best talks from Linux.conf.au this year, chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center Eben Moglen recalled the debate that surrounded introducing PGP in the 1990s.
“People have been made afraid that if you let communications be secure, the villains will win,” he said. “I must tell you that I heard a lot of that in the early ’90s over PGP too.
“I had a bet with a reporter … whether it was going to be pedophilia or nuclear terrorism of which I was first going to be accused in every public meeting.”
Fast forward 20 years, and not only are a number of tech firms now “friendly to terrorists”, they are also ignoring their “corporate social responsibility” by making it harder for authorities to get access to data, Reuters reported Mark Rowley, London Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner for specialist crime and operations, as saying last week.
“It can be set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them … and creates challenges for law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. Or it can be set up in a way which doesn’t do that.” Rowley reportedly said.
Like petulant children that have had their favourite toys taken away, authorities are increasingly crying foul that encryption is getting in their way.