A quick guide to problems that will arise if we implement further internet surveillance measures

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Snoopers Charter revisited

The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders has lead to goverment and opposition calling for more internet surveillance. Here are a few points for your consideration.

  1. Storing this data will inevitably result in it being hacked, left on a train/taxi on a laptop/memory stick and details of a government minister affair with another MP being made public. Example here (29 Jan 2015)
  2. The overhead associated with having to gather and store the data in a secure way will be proportionally huge compared to the size of the business and to the number of customers for smaller ISPs. This will result in the government deciding not to force these businesses to store the information and settle just for the biggest 7 ISPs aka the Digital Economy Act. The consequence will be that potential terrorists will just use these smaller ISPs for their internet services leaving a big hole in the “surveillance net”
  3. The resources required to make this happen will be huge. The French government already knew about the Charlie Hebdo killers. They just lacked the feet on the street to keep tabs on them. Diverting staff to managing the data gathering project will mean even fewer feet on the street or divert cash from adding more feet.
  4. The technical challenges with managing sender and receiver data for email clients is not small due to the hundreds of different clients out there with non standard formats.
  5. Most email is in any case encrypted these days and is run on platforms that are not necessarily owned by UK businesses. The difficulties associated with extracting these data will not be small (if not impossible). Ditto social media platforms.
  6. Forcing these platforms to provide a back door into the encrypted data (assuming it will be doable) will erode trust in areas of the economy that also rely on such encryption such as banking and ecommerce.
  7. Businesses will move away from the UK. It will be the start of the rot and leave us with a reputation akin to China et all when it comes to “surveillance society”.
  8. Terrorists will move deeper into darknets and continue to kill innocent people.
  9. On balance I’d spend the money on more feet on the street.

The rush to call for the snooper’s charter to be implemented would result in a bad law that will not have had adequate scrutiny. My wife and one of the kids were in the audience during last night’s BBC Question Time filmed in Lincoln’s Drill Hall. I watched despite it being well after my bedtime.

None of the panellists or the audience really had a grasp on the issues which reflects its highly complex nature. It’s very easy for MPs to support this type of legislation. Most right minded people will agree that it’s a good thing to stop terrorism. It’s just that they don’t understand the implications.

Check out other snoopers charter type posts here.

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