The Stack Archive

Ex-spook John Sawer joins the US/UK governments’ ‘anti-privacy’ campaign

Tue 20 Jan 2015

[Opinion] At this point, the rhythm of rhetoric from high officials and government representatives against Zero Knowledge Encryption has become so regular and so reliable (allowing for the Christmas quietude that briefly intervened), that perhaps it is time to fit these predictable bursts into a new templating system here at The Stack. Let’s begin:

Who is it this time?
John Sawers, former Chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service

What does he say he wants?
“some new compact between the technology companies and those who are responsible for security”

What does he really want?
The same as all the other speakers on this issue (see “Who’s with him on this?’, below): to stop and actually reverse the rising tide towards encrypted forms of online communication that GCHQ, the NSA and other friendly government entities want to eavesdrop on without excessive expenditure of effort or resources.

Who’s with him on this?
FBI director James Comey (late September), The outgoing U.S. Attorney General (a week later), the head of the UK’s National Crime Agency (a week later), the recently-appointed new head of GCHQ (two weeks later), MI5 chief Andrew Parker (11 days ago), UK Prime Minister David Cameon first by himself (two days later) and then together with President Obama (three days after that, with Obama having set the stage during the pre-Christmas and Christmas respite);

Opportunism or just routine?
Apparently scheduled, but Sawers managed to sneak in Charlie Hebdo for extra emphasis (see source link at bottom).

Most outrageous quote:
“If you have a society which evades and abuses privacy, then ultimately there will be a reaction against the damage to your security.”


One doesn’t need any appreciable level of autism to characterise the frequency of these announcements, since they neither cluster together nor lose sight of each other – it’s enough that one be able to count. Slowly.

Britain has seen at least two ‘long game’ campaigns under the coalition’s Conservative-led government – the demonization and extraordinary marginalisation of the under-privileged (with the scarecrow of 2012’s “blind-pulling benefits dodger” an open ticket to a 75% public approval rating for further cuts three years later), and last year’s manipulation of the media over a ‘collapsing’ National Health Service (currently semi-paused for pre-election goodwill).

Since the UK and US governments seem determined to repeat themselves on this issue until we have all got used to the white noise – and are less likely to be shocked or uncooperative at the unfavourable action/s that will provide the chorus – it doesn’t seem unreasonable to take an orbital view of the campaign and, based on history, guess what is coming: legislation set to openly criminalise such online privacy as is provided by Apple’s iOs8 or the U.S. Navy’s Tor protocol (though admittedly they weren’t expecting Edward Snowden to be the project’s poster boy).

Source: Reuters

Tags:

David Cameron encryption feature politics privacy zero knowledge
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