Despite current British Prime Minister David Cameron’s insistence that he wants to see more Chinese filters affecting the UK’s internet and his announcement that if re-elected he would ban effective encryption, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has published a report which suggests that doing so would be “not seen as acceptable policy.” It goes on to say that even if it were, doing so would be exceedingly difficult.
The report also specifically cites the anonymising Tor network as a particularly difficult entity to put to bed. Originally developed by the US Navy for transferring information without revealing the identity of the sender or receiver, it has become used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world for everything from avoiding government oversight in countries with restrictive regimes to buying drugs and other illegal items. Despite some of its illegitimate uses though, the parliamentary office points out that even in regions like China, which have very restrictive internet policies, blocking Tor usage is near impossible.
Initially thought to be heavily-linked with the UK’s paedophilia network, Tor was actually found to have a very minor role, with the office’s report suggesting that just a handful of the 1,600+ internet sites hosting child pornography are accessible only via the Tor browser. Part of the briefing given to politicians attempts to dispel the myth of an intrinsic link between paedophilia and the software.
Altogether though, the report argues that people need to be allowed to act anonymously online if they so choose and that encryption needs to be a legal method of doing so. There is no mandate that David Cameron or others need to listen to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology of course, much as he and others have refused to do with entities like the drugs advisory council. However there can now be little defence for politicians claiming that Tor and other anonymising platforms are used solely for evil means.
To read the full report, check out the DailyDot’s coverage here.
KitGuru Says: It’s nice to see a government body standing up for the right to anonymity and privacy online. Clearly it’s something that Cameron has no interest in preserving.