Saturday, 17 January 2015

David Cameron proposes backdoor government access to messaging services

Services which could soon be monitored or banned by the
Government if the Conservatives win the next general election
In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings last week in Paris, questions have been raised about how these kind of attacks can be prevented in the future. David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain, pledged earlier this week that if the Conservatives win the general election they’ll introduce laws allowing the Government to access encrypted messages from services such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Snapchat in hope that this would prevent acts of terrorism from being organised over the web.

David Cameron said: “If I am Prime Minister I will make sure that it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that does not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other.”

The controversial announcement was superficial and logistics were not mentioned. Messaging apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Skype crucially market themselves as private messaging services where only the sender and recipient can view the messages – the companies themselves can’t even gain access to the encrypted messages. Therefore, technology companies have spoken out against these proposals; offering the Government backdoor access to user’s messages is not something they are prepared to do lightly as most companies would lose their unique selling point of offering secure and private messaging services. Consequently, messaging services would also see a significant reduction in users.

Even approaching this issues from the Government’s perspective, despite rumours of a new cyber-cell government organisation that will monitor communications, former security minister, Lord West, said “We probably do need a little bit more money for the security service”.

Even non-encrypted services such as Twitter and Facebook will be pushed by David Cameron and Barack Obama to co-operate with intelligence services as Cameron claims “they have a social responsibility to fight the battle against terrorism”.

If the law does pass in the next government and technology companies do not comply with it, it has been suggested that the government could ban or severely limit services. Plus, there is no guarantee that monitoring encrypted services will be successful; there is a large change that extremists will simply migrate to another medium of communication whether that be online on not.