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Snowden blasts British government over contradiction on encryption

Encryption might be something the Germans are big fans of, but the British government and its intelligence agencies continue to paint it as a tool of evil, used to hide criminal activity from the authorities. However as opposition to this view point grows, it’s attempted to mollify concerns that it hates privacy as a whole and has suggested it doesn’t want backdoors into communications, it just wants to be able to read them whenever it has a warrant. Which is one and the same thing.

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Source: Yuri Samollov

As you might expect, many people have highlighted this hypocrisy and the lack of understanding many politicians seem to have over it, including in-exile whistleblower Edward Snowden. He pointed out that Joanna Shield, current UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security said to the collected House of Lords: “This is not about creating back doors; this is about companies being able to access communications on their network when presented with a warrant.”

He then explained to individuals like Shields what exactly a backdoor was, stating: “a backdoor is a mechanism to provide secret access to otherwise confidential communications. It has nothing to do with warrants.”

Indeed although encouraging that Shields is keen to see data standards only broken when a warrant is signed, rather than whenever the intelligence agencies see fit – as is happening currently with blanket surveillance of the population – her lack of understanding of what it takes to break encryption is worrying for someone in her position in government; especially considering her specific role.

Snowden went on to point out however, that warrants are only designed to provide access to information already accessible to a company or individual, not to deputise them into policing their own customers.

As much as Snowden’s commentary and criticism are warranted, it seems unlikely to sway a government headed by David Cameron, a person who has been hard on encryption, privacy and web standards for some time now. His recent push for pornography filtering is similar to his attack on encryption, wanting to protect children whilst allowing the government to view as much of what we’re doing online as possible, to help do that.

A new draft of the repeatedly shot-down Snooper’s Charter, pushed by Theresa May, is set to be unveiled next week and it is thought likely to champion the idea of breaking encryption and making ISPs responsible for tracking what their customers do online, storing that information for up to a year and providing it when requested.

This is why, as the Guardian points out, PR efforts by intelligence agencies have expanded heavily in recent months, as they attempt to justify their mass collection of British and international data.

Fortunately there are some politicians that do seem to understand what’s going on. Before Shields launched into her rhetoric, Liberal MP Paul Strasburger pointed out that David Cameron “does not seem to get it yet,” that strong encryption is vitally important for banking and retail, among other uses.

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KitGuru Says: The naiveté in parliament over encryption, internet standards and digital communication is staggering. It’s amazing how little they listen to the advice of people that know what they’re talking about and are more than happy to pander to right-wing scare-mongering.

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