The government’s response to the tragic terrorist attacks on the people of Paris has been to fast track the Investigatory Powers Bill, or ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ as it has become known.
Although I agree strongly that the legislation covering communication in this digital age needs to be updated and expanded, the government’s fixation with forcing back doors into messaging services will succeed only in harming the civil liberties of its own citizens and the well being of the UK economy.
A very, very small number of people use technology to further evil purposes. It is well know that terrorists strive to avoid using any form of digital communications to plan attacks, and even if they did, they would not download a service that revealed their name, email address or phone number. It’s much more likely they would use one of the open-source end-to-end encryption solutions that are freely available on the Internet – or they can develop themselves.
Pushing this bill through will only succeed in reducing the security of law-abiding citizens across the UK. They will become an even more vulnerable target for cyber criminals, who are just as good as government spooks at slipping through unlocked back doors.
The government’s proposal would persuade many companies to relocate from the UK, and would lumber others with the substantial costs of implementing its requirements. Costs will increase in terms of data retention, storage and security – which many smaller businesses will not be able to manage.
This will result in lower corporate taxes and higher unemployment.
The government must consider the damage that it could do to its own people and the UK economy before proceeding with this bill. It is vital that it avoid a knee-jerk response that will have little or no beneficial effect on national security, but will undermine the right to privacy of people and businesses.
The importance of having encrypted secure messaging is likely to become ever more obvious as individuals and companies look for cost-effective ways to ensure the integrity of their most important asset – their data.
Jonathan Parker-Bray is chief executive of Criptyque