Is unencrypting all your conversations would make the terrorists go away ? Of course it wouldn't.

Posted on January 14, 2015

Cory Doctorow, for, about United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal of banning all “‘means of communication’ which ‘we cannot read’” :

This, then, is what David Cameron is proposing:

All Britons’ communications must be easy for criminals, voyeurs and foreign spies to intercept

Any firms within reach of the UK government must be banned from producing secure software

All major code repositories, such as Github and Sourceforge, must be blocked

Search engines must not answer queries about web-pages that carry secure software

Virtually all academic security work in the UK must cease – security research must only take place in proprietary research environments where there is no onus to publish one’s findings, such as industry R&D and the security services

All packets in and out of the country, and within the country, must be subject to Chinese-style deep-packet inspection and any packets that appear to originate from secure software must be dropped

Existing walled gardens (like iOS and games consoles) must be ordered to ban their users from installing secure software

Anyone visiting the country from abroad must have their smartphones held at the border until they leave

Proprietary operating system vendors (Microsoft and Apple) must be ordered to redesign their operating systems as walled gardens that only allow users to run software from an app store, which will not sell or give secure software to Britons

Free/open source operating systems – that power the energy, banking, ecommerce, and infrastructure sectors – must be banned outright

David Cameron will say that he doesn’t want to do any of this. He’ll say that he can implement weaker versions of it – say, only blocking some “notorious” sites that carry secure software. But anything less than the programme above will have no material effect on the ability of criminals to carry on perfectly secret conversations that “we cannot read”.

This is a great article about David Cameron’s demagogic proposal of making all the conversations -and by extension, every software- easy to read and to intercept. But his reflection, in the wake of Charlie Hebdo’s terrorist attack, applies to all countries who want to take similar steps.

Making encrypted software unlawful jeopardize freedom of speech, the essence of a democracy. Also, and even if Cameron will defend himself that he is pursuing it, encryption today is deeply needed to keep the web safe from hackers. And if you’re more worried for your money than you are for your liberties, try to think about purchasing something with your credit card on an unencrypted connection. You’ll make quite a lot of people happy (but not you).

Thanks to Next Draft.