Today Cameron has been branded a dunce of similar proportions after making a speech calling for encryption to be banned on national security grounds.
The back story here, as I wrote yesterday, is that European politicians have been calling for increased surveillance of online activity to combat terrorism, in the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris. This is the usual trigger response of Western politicians striving to look tough on terrorism.
However the U.K. PM, who is notably on the re-election trail right now — with a General Election coming up in May — singled himself out for the most hawkish pronouncements on this front, effectively calling for a ban on end-to-end encryption.
“Are we going to allow a means of communication between people which even in extremis, with a signed warrant from the Home Secretary personally, that we cannot read?” said Cameron in a speech yesterday attacking encryption. “No we must not. The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.”
So — presumably — Cameron is calling for a ban on mainstream messaging services which use encryption, such as Apple’s iMessage or FaceTime. Not to mention PGP. He’s likely also not comfortable with consumer services that deliberately delete messages after the intended recipient has viewed them, such as Snapchat — unless they offer backdoors to U.K. security services. And what about the entire banking industry, which clearly relies on strong encryption to function? Is that going to be banned or not?
Helpfully the EFF did a security review of messaging services last year. And gave gold stars to ChatSecure, Cryptocat, Signal/Redphone, Silent Phone & Silent Text (pictured at the top of this post running on the security-focused BlackPhone smartphone) and TextSecure.
Such strongly secured comms services would presumably be first up against the wall in a Cameron-led Tory Britain.
The alternative is that Cameron is not actually so stupid as to think it’s possible — or desirable — to erect a great ‘encryption-banning firewall’ around the U.K. that somehow outlaws all sorts of essential technologies and sandboxes the country from the rest of the connected world. (For some granular detail on what might be required to deliver a Cameron encryption ban read this excellent Boing Boing debunking.)
Rather he just thinks the British public is so stupid — so is making absurd claims in the hopes people vote for him. That, folks, is politics.
Whatever the truth — whether he’s just blowing hot air and indulging in a spot of totalitarian posturing because he thinks being a blowhard will play well with voters in the wake of a terror attack, or whether he genuinely thinks he can outlaw maths and that that would somehow be a good thing — happily the Twittersphere did not disappoint in its mockery of his latest digital policy proposals.
Heck, even Marc Andreessen called Cameron’s plan lunacy.
And the U.K.’s Information Commissioner isn’t exactly over the moon about the consumer services havoc the PM is proposing ushering in if he gets back into Number 10…
Far for me to suggest Cameron’s comments have made him a laughing stock online — I’ll let the below tweets speaking for themselves.
(NB: Dave, there’s no need to ban encryption to read these unvarnished truths.)