‘I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy, and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.’ Edward Snowden.
In the United States FBI director James Comey has railed against the perils of encryption. In the UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised legislation banning encryption if he wins the upcoming general election. Europol director Rob Wainwright has now, in an interview with BBC Radio, joined the increasingly panicked calls for controls on encryption,
‘It’s become perhaps the biggest problem for the police and the security service authorities in dealing with the threats from terrorism.’
Ah… terrorism…of course. Terrorism has become the modern day bogeyman used to frighten children citizens into accepting ever more comprehensive and intrusive government spying into every facet of our lives. As George Orwell understood well, fighting an unwinnable war against an ill-defined concept (it seems that wars are no longer fought against people or nations, who have a nasty tendency to fight back), but against ideas, is a win-win situation for those who would control us.
Much like the War onDrugs, the War on Terror allows ever more sinister political elites to not only funnel vast resources to favored economic elites, but to wage war on the basic rights and freedoms the common man has fought so hard to obtain, scaring an ever more frightened, cowed, and deliberately misinformed public into willingly handing over their right to make choices about their own lives, their privacy, and their political agency, in return for an illusion of ‘safety’.
It is not terrorists who most threaten our way of life, our liberty, and our privacy, it is our own elected leaders and the obscenely wealthy vested interested they represent in a shamefully unequal and unfair world, and who want complete and total control over ‘their’ populations so that no-one might question or challenge their campaign for complete appropriation of wealth and power.
It is no wonder, then, that the boot-boys of these political elites (police, government surveillance organizations, etc.) hate encryption so much, as without privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought (the lifeblood of any free, equal and democratic society) are all but impossible.
As Glyn Moody, writing in Ars Technica, observes,
‘Although the percentage of traffic that can be monitored may be lower, the volume is much higher, which means that, overall, more information is available for counter-terrorism agencies.’
In fact, far from ‘going dark’, security services now have access to oceans of surveillance data, as the sheer volume of digital communications increases almost exponentially each year. If their real aim was to catch terrorists, then they would be spending resources on finding ways to narrow down their search and sift more effectively through relevant data. Instead, they want access to ever more data that they cannot meaningfully use or analyze. After all, the bigger the haystack, the more difficult it is to find the needle.
Given this basic fact, it becomes obvious that governments’ desire to spy on everything has nothing to do with finding terrorists, and everything to do with building a panopticon-like state aimed at exerting power over an intimidated population.
Encryption, therefore, which provides the ability to learn and discuss ideas free from the continued gaze of a state hostile to notions of democracy, freedom of expression, and personal liberty. No wonder Mr Wainwright and his kind want to ban it…