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Top UK copper slams encryption

According to the new national UK police chief of counter-terrorism (replacing Cressida Dick), Mark Rowley, tech companies are responsible for developing technologies that are ‘friendly to terrorists’, because they make the task accessing data hard for the authorities,

Some of the acceleration of technology, whether it’s communications or other spheres, can be set up in different ways. It can be set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them … and creates challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Or it can be set up in a way which doesn’t do that.

What he is talking about, obviously, is encryption, and although he declined to name specific companies, it is Apple and Google that have alarmed police and governments over implementing full-disk encryption on their devices by default (although Google has shied away slightly from this promise.)

Rowley argues that companies need to consider their ‘corporate social responsibility,’ when creating products, lest those products be ‘exploited by terrorists,’

Snowden has created an environment where some technology companies are less comfortable working with law reinforcement and intelligence agencies and the bad guys are better informed. We all love the benefit of the internet and all the rest of it, but we need their support in making sure that they’re doing everything possible to stop their technology being exploited by terrorists. I’m saying that needs to be front and centre of their thinking and for some it is and some it isn’t.

Now, as Glyn Moody from TechDirt sharply observes,

The technology is not being “exploited” by terrorists, it’s being used by them, just as they use telephones or microwaves or washing machines. That’s what those devices are there for. The idea that trying to make broken internet technologies should be “front and center” of technology companies’ thinking bespeaks a complete contempt for their users.

This is an excellent point, and as readers of that article have commented, one could easily replace the word ‘technology’ with ‘locks’, or even ‘doors’, and the same underlying point would be made, except that the ridiculousness of the statement is clearly exposed.

Of course, as I have argued before, the authorities’ hatred of encryption is not rational in reference to preventing terrorism (and should we ban all kitchen knives because a few ‘terrorists’ might use them to bad ends?), but it makes terrifying sense when we look at how governments are trying to achieve panopticon-like surveillance over their citizens, all the better to intimidate and control them with, and that encryption stands in the way of this high-tech Orwellian power-grab…


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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