David Cameron expresses desire to ban end-to-end encryption

He said: “In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?”

All we need to do now, is hook a turbine up to Orwell’s surely rapidly rotating corpse, and we’ll have unlimited energy!


I just facepalmed… statements like these make me feel, at times, like that is a need for most politicians to have happen to them what happened to the French nobles in the late 18th century…

The scary part for us, of course, will be when Tony Abbott decides that he needs to do the same thing here. And if they want my GPG key in escrow or something, they can go fuck themselves.

Hang on. No crypto means no smart cards. No smart cards means no SIMs. No SIMs means no GSM. No GSM solves the U.K. 'phone-tapping issue at a stroke.

I severely doubt D.C. has the technical chops to admit this is kind of a conflict of interest for him.

Drawing too long a bow perhaps?

The Guardian on this topic … http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/13/cameron-ban-encryption-digital-britain-online-shopping-banking-messaging-terror



I’ve been waiting for one of the UK media outlets to start taking the economic angle. I used the same one against Conroy’s “clean feed” nonsense a few years ago in the report Atomic MPC published. It was already tens of billions of dollars here back in 2009 (around $80 billion per year I think), and that was growing each year. At a guestimate, Cameron is threatening to annihilate somewhere in the vicinity of half a trillion GBP in revenue from the UK (presumably a hefty chunk of that would have been ultimately gov’t revenue in the form of taxes).

That’s the kind of policy which is guaranteed to lose an election. Once the numbers start bouncing around, this thing will collapse. Either that or it will be rendered useless by being restricted to either particular programs or even particular protocols (e.g. XMPP/Jabber), but being unable to effect cipher implementations (e.g. OpenSSL, OpenSSH, GNU Privacy Guard, etc.).

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His position is clearly ignorant, but I expect the sad lack of understanding of such issues by the majority of voters will mean that there will be no significant effect on elections.
All he has to do is to say terrorists and/or paedophiles use encryption and it needs to be stopped so that the government can protect you/your children from the bad people and it will most likely increase his popularity amongst voters in general.

He’s got Obama striking a very similar position now as well. The timing suggests this position is probably orchestrated. They get to point at each other and say “Look, they think so too.”

Of course, when it comes to security of the financial and other vital systems, encryption will continue to be allowed. Banks will be authorised, as has happened in the past, and they won’t need to back-door it because banks already give them whatever data they want anyway.

My guess as to what this is really about, is that they are mounting a campaign to position things in the minds of the population to counter the initiatives by private corporations to move towards more entrenched encryption in everything. Specific examples of this include the moves by Apply and Google to default encrypt mobile phones.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I think the seeming ignorance of the original statements by both Cameron and now Obama, are a ruse. It’s just media-political positioning that will probably have the desired effect because of general population ignorance of the systematic realities of security. Our extrapolated technical interpretations don’t make sense because the original claims were never intended as technical claims in the first place.

So what positions do I think we should take?

  • I like the general message that I read from the likes of Cory Doctorow. The simple point for everyone to understand, is right there. It might be related like “Would you like to give the local police a key to a special extra door to your house, intended just for them and then relying on nobody else every figuring out how to use it and no police ever being corrupt, now or in future?”
  • We might want to also point out that giving government access to all of our private communications is akin to setting them up as “thought police”. We all need to be able to think through the consequences of bad ideas, to arrive at conclusions about what is good. Private communication over the network needs to be thought of as equivalent to private communication in private premises. If we can’t privately say occasionally stupid things amongst trusted friends, then it will undermine the foundations of our culture.

  • And in response to their core scary assertions, I think the position is that the police and intelligence organisations just need to do what they have always done in the past. Stop trying to rely on data. Security is about people. Do basic police work. Don’t be lazy. Do your jobs. Get out in the community. Walk the beat. Know the people. Be known by them. Stop alienating yourselves.

There’s probably a lot more to be said.