UK Aims to Step Up Surveillance and Kill Encryption

Companies and, yes, even governments tend to wait until something bad happens before they do something to protect people. (Ironically, they are always using preparedness as an excuse for spying, but this rarely really helps people.) Most recently, the United Kingdom has become highly motivated to get their proposed Counter Terrorism and Security Bill back on track. This is despite the backlash that their government has had to deal with subsequent to the Snowden leaks.

Looking for Justification

Citizens of the word are not so ignorant as to believe it when governments say that it is time to take action. We can be sure that they have already been working behind the scenes for many years. When a government pulls out a tabled proposal after an event catalyst, we know that it is because they see that event as a good excuse for promoting an existing agenda. The UK wants to push forward with their Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, popularly dubbed the snoopers’ charter, and they are using the Charlie Hebdo incident to justify the need for privacy-killing legislation.

The shootings that left France in state of shock a week after New Year’s this year is the event that is probably having the biggest impact internationally. We have seen governments and corporations in Europe mobilize to increase security. They continued to be motivated as criticism over lax security poured in from neighbors and governments around the globe. Some are saying that it is a good thing that has come from a very bad situation. But good things are often manipulated by people in power who want to gain more power.

The government in the UK may be taking steps to boost security, but these steps are moving away from freedom even as they seem to bring residents better security. The people rejected the government’s proposals for a snoopers’ charter for the reason that it would kill their civil liberties. Snowden showed the world what our governments have been doing, and the world fought back because it is unacceptable. Just because a bunch of crazed terrorists decided to tear up the town, tragic as it is, this doesn’t mean that everyone should give up their freedoms so the government can spy more freely.

The government, any government, should be able to protect its citizens without taking away their constitutionally protected rights. Governments are the ones with the responsibility to provide security, and this must not demand a continuous sacrifice from citizens. If the House of Lords passes the bill because its supporters are fear mongering after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, UK residents are going to find their Internet service providers logging even more of their personal data and private activities. And ISPs will be passing this information to law enforcement and other government agencies with much less supervision than before, which means not much at all.

The UK has been pushing for more surveillance powers, as many other countries have been doing. After Snowden let the cat out of the bag, governments all over the world had to modify their illegal spying practices. Now they are eager to legitimize their surveillance activities so they can continue snooping around, business as usual. Prime Minister David Cameron is all for the snoopers’ charter, and we think he is secretly cheering the tragic shooting because it gives him an excuse to shove it under the House’s nose.

Attacking Encryption, Too

Cameron isn’t just going after more surveillance powers. He is also backing the conservative party’s plan to kill encryption next year. It’s funny that he has included this promise as one of his campaign highlights. He should have expected the wave of irritation that washed over privacy advocates and security experts following the announcement. If the party is reelected next year, he promises to make sure that no encryption will be permitted, including any services that use it, if government security agencies cannot decode it. The UK is definitely going to become a contender for the country with the highest VPN use if this happens. Residents are not going to so easily give up their private messaging apps, and they will need a working alternative to the Tor network and other proxy services.

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