The home secretary Amber Rudd was quoted on Andrew Marr’s Sunday show saying “…we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.” Since then a major debate has erupted over whether the tech giants should be handing access to their software to the security services.
Of course, I totally understand this reaction given the events of last week but we should be very careful before we go down this road. We do not want to live in a surveillance state and we certainly should think though the ramifications before we give up our rights to privacy. The revelations last month that the CIA and GCHQ had developed the ability to spy on us through our TV sets was very scary (yet to be denied).
As well as allowing the security services to intercept messages, weakening the security of such platforms opens us up to hackers and others with malicious intent, this for me is where I have most concern. One must bear in mind that the end to end encryption which protects WhatsAPP messages means even the firms itself cannot listen in on our messages.
People in public life or in positions of power need to be able to communicate with each with frankness and openness. There is in doubt in mind that this power will be used with malicious intent. It isn’t farfetched to want to guard against handing over more power to MI5 in the belief that we do not know who is in charge and whether their intentions are always going to be for the greater good. It also won’t work, there are plenty of options now for people who want to communicate with each other in private. It would be impossible for any government to open all the different messaging apps available. You would be chasing shadows with no end. All would end up doing is infringing on the liberty of ordinary people who use the service.
The other issue is this misses the real problem. We need to promote better integration and deal with the problems in the country’s prisons. Prisons which seem to have become colleges of crime. The re offence rate is truly shocking, the rate for those who have served under twelve months stands at fifty-eight percent. A massive figure. To put it another way almost six out of ten inmates who spend less than a year behind bars go on to re-offend. Incidentally it looks as though this is where the lunatic behind lasts weeks’ attack was radicalised.
Clearly there is an issue here. We have become too soft on crime. Redemption clearly isn’t possible for everyone and where it isn’t possible we should lock people up and throw away the key. We need to stop this madness around making prisons nice. In fact, we need to make them worse. Think less holiday inn more Shawshank Redemption. Prison is supposed to be a serious punishment which deters criminals from committing more crime when they are released.
In short to conclude we are missing the tech firms are not the real problem. We do not defeat terrorism by giving up the very liberties that they seek to destroy.