The Guardian publishes this really rather terrifying article – mainly because of its far-reaching implications. The article subheading suggests the following:
The UK government doesn’t need the ability to read all communications to keep Britons safe. Using the Paris attacks to claim that they do is galling
(Where not gauling …)
A key paragraph tells us that (the bold is mine):
Even Cameron acknowledged yesterday that his proposed powers were “very intrusive.” What he didn’t acknowledge, however, was there’s absolutely no public evidence Charlie Hebdo murderers used encryption to communicate at all. Even if they did, we know from the Snowden documents that the GCHQ or NSA still have ways to access their messages. But neither of these facts stopped Cameron from cravenly capitalizing on the tragedy in an attempt to push for powers his government has been from demanding for years.
Some of the implications are not spelt out, however. One, in particular. That journalistic practice is deliberately, ultimately, under attack here.
There seems to be a wider movement abroad at the moment. From the #EUVAT scandal, where digital micro-businesses across Europe have had no option but to shut up shop, to the idea – I suggest, and wonder, right now – that legally employed encryption may sooner or later only be available to large corps, the life and micro-flora and fauna of entrepreneurial instincts would appear to be on the sacrificial table of future policy-making and government action.
What do I mean exactly?
Firstly, it’s much easier for governments and security services to deal with, make policy for and control a handful of representatives from large companies than attempt to coordinate the needs and opinions of millions of little home-office outfits, each scrimping and saving and working their ways through life in frankly far more unpredictable ways.
An example of what our high and mighty leaders and analysts might fear. Who knows what nasty small groupings might be hidden beneath the other hundreds and thousands, maybe millions, which a properly entrepreneurial Europe could create in the future?
No. Much better to destroy all micro-businesses, and keep heavily governanced tabs on the VAT-registered behemoths.
Now to my second point. It may not just be business in the cross-hairs of governments like Cameron’s. What if the fear of a socially-networked and supported journalism – eagerly eagle-eyed in its unending vigilance of all things corporate and undemocratic – should be perceived as far too risky a thing to manage; should be perceived as something which must be insistently cowed?
What if it’s actually the whole practice of journalism – as we currently perceive it – that Cameron & Co want to besmirch and make logistically impossible to carry out?
Just think about the implications: without a minimum of encryption – and with all the backdoors, trapdoors and exploits cleverly exploited over the years, it’s only a minimum we currently have anyway – who will dare to ever whistleblow a powerful man, woman or org to any newspaper worth its distribution figures?
How could you possibly even consider, as a small individual, taking the first step and contacting such an organ, when everyone and their cat was warning you the government would be in there from the very beginning?
They’d force you into thinking you were evil, just because you were trying to denounce something that was evil.
And so, in the medium-term, journalism – the best of it – would lose its considerable shine; would lose its power to attract the privileged intel that is its lifeblood.
Without witnesses prepared to bear witness, does a crime ever get committed?
For by arguing that, quite unnecessarily, GCHQ needs a completely unencrypted web – after all they already claim to have total awareness of absolutely everything, even as in that extra-legal fashion so beloved of security agencies everywhere it’s clearly impossible to get bigger than total … – Cameron is surely suggesting something far more serious than he’s let on to as yet.
He won’t be looking to shut down corporate websites, for sure. So a deal for them will be rapidly reached with respect to conceding them the right to use basic encryption methods. The little outfits, however, where terrorism could conceivably hide in very small numbers, will swiftly be left out of the frame – and with exactly that excuse. And then, of course, in this regimented and regulated CBNW (Cameron’s Brave New World), it will be up to each media org and online newspaper and magazine to come cap in hand to their respective governments, asking for the right to use secure methods of communication under the conditions such governments set out.
This is really serious. Corporate commerce won’t be affected at all. Rather, it’s our right to watch, investigate and interrogate the wrongdoers which will.
That’s what Cameron & Co are really going after.
A journalism utterly dependent on the state: not through licensing nor laws nor Parliament any more but instead – in a very 21st century sense – through the defining of what code it may or may not use to protect its integrity.
For the politicians and business leaders both, a freedom not of speech but – essentially – from any kind of rigorous, as well as independently public, examination and oversight.