do governments like cameron’s have journalism in their cross-hairs?

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.

why sex is so important and yet no one cares

In the past, we didn’t have to worry about our identities.

In a way, the state, companies and other orgs were simply inefficient about collecting the intel.

That’s constructively inefficient.  That’s comfortingly inefficient.

Inefficient to the extent that they allowed us to breathe.

Nowadays, identity is just in the subset of what we need to worry about.  The real caballo de batalla, as the Spanish would say, is sex.

Cameron, the people who advise him, and probably most of the opposition parties here in Britain too, are looking to invade our right to sex.  They want to outlaw everything we’ve grown up expecting, as full-grown adults in a country of liberal freedoms.

The only sex they seem to be capable of allowing is that which involves powerful people hurting – or even killing – the weaker amongst us.  That sort of sex, they’re happy enough – it seems – to permit.

There was a time, before identities became a subset of everything we should now be worried about, that we didn’t even think about this thing I’m calling sex.  It was just there; it was just a part of what we were; it was just … well … like grass which was green and skies which were gloriously blue.

The furniture of humanity.  The furniture of being human.

Now that sex is in the cross-hairs of our government, now that our government is (to coin a phrase) weaponising sex, we are poorly equipped to defend ourselves against the dialectic of the sex-invaders.

We were so used, in the past, to what they are now taking away from us that we actually find it impossible to understand, any more, exactly how they’re taking it away.

So when Cameron or whoever bleats on about needing to invade our sex, we kind of dismiss the rhetoric and just carry on as we were.

Hoping against hope that at the end of the decade sex will still be there.

In some magical way.

In some mystical process.

Through the benevolence of those who are anything but benevolent.


In essence, what’s happened is we’ve forgotten precisely what we’ve lost because, in that past I refer you to, we never had to really fight for it.



A final point I’d like to make.

If, in the title and content of today’s post, I’d written the word “privacy” instead of the word “sex”, would you have read it?  I don’t think so.

And therein lies – and ends – the lesson for this cold and blustery morn.

prohibiting encryption is like telling people they can’t lock their front doors

You don’t often write a post in the title of the post.

But I think I have this time.

As ever the incorrigible writer, though, I do have to add a couple more observations.

How would we react if our government said keys were to be banned and window-locks outlawed?  How would we feel if we had to park our cars and leave the doors wide open?  What would we think about briefcases we were forced to leave on train seats, with their contents accessible by anyone watching … all whilst we spent a terrified penny or two?

And just imagine what it would be like to live in a world where the only mechanism which they eventually allowed you, in order that you might keep people out of places you wanted to maintain private, was your thumbprint?

And that this thumbprinted safe place for everything private was permanently connected to an Internet they could easily hack?

And that this easily hackable device was your smartphone … say?





Not such a smartphone after all, eh?

So that, dear readers, is precisely what Cameron is suggesting.  An open invitation to the burgling of your homes; to the mugging of your streets; to the nicking of all kinds of long-established rights.

Amazing, isn’t it?  Amazing how it’s once more the Conservatives who wantonly fail to conserve what we all thought was ours to keep.

And you know what else is amazing?  I bet there won’t be too many of this breed of politicians who’ll be leaving their possessions, devices and content unlocked …

Anyhow.  An idle thought to finish.  Imagine you’re responsible for a customer’s data.  Imagine, by not using encryption, that data goes astray.  Imagine that the customer suffers as a result.

Who is to blame?  Downing Street?  The Cabinet?  The Coalition government as a whole?

Will we be able to redirect customers in their direction?

Will Cameron & Co, and anyone else who acquiesces to such idiocy, cough up the relevant compensation when awarded?

Answers on a virtual postcard, please.  By the early bit of May.  Say … the 1st.

In time to vote.