Have you been following the revelations about the NSA and GCHQ spying upon internet usage, intercepting communications inside Google and Yahoo, weakening encryption standards, bugging the phones of EU leaders, and infecting companies with malware?
You can’t have missed them, they’ve been all over the media - not just in the technology press, but making mainstream national news headlines.
In fact, ever since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden first leaked top secret evidence of internet surveillance, it has probably become one of the biggest stories of the year.
And you know what the media couldn’t stop themselves from reporting? They couldn’t hold back their enthusiasm about the brilliance of the NSA and GCHQ.
At least, that’s what British Prime Minister David Cameron would have you believe.
In a radio interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Vine about child abuse images on the internet, Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“There’s been a lot in the news recently about the techniques, ability and brilliance of the people involved in the intelligence community, in GCHQ and the NSA in America. That expertise is going to be brought to bear to go after these revolting people sharing these images on the dark net, and making them available more widely”
Maybe Cameron is reading different news reports from the ones I’m seeing. Because rather than praise for their “brilliance”, there has been a lot more expressed about concern that surveillance agencies have overstepped the mark and - it could even be argued - have put the safety of all of us at risk by endangering our privacy.
On this occasion, of course, Cameron was talking about how he has convinced Google and Microsoft to make it harder to find child abuse material with their search engines.
An obvious response is - do paedophiles *really* use Google and Microsoft Bing to find child abuse images? Don’t they seek out encrypted image collections via P2P networks, and use technologies like Tor to visit the “dark web” instead - where illegal content can be shared with little risk of being caught?
I suspect that the initiative announced yesterday will do little to deter paedophiles, or prevent them from sharing illegal images.
David Cameron again:
“The point is that you use technology, which is able to get into the dark internet, that is able to decrypt encrypted files, and that is able to find out what is going on. And like all these things, if you put in the resources and effort, if you use the best brains - the brains that are as it were the inheritors to the people that decrypted the Enigma code in the second World War. If you take those brains and apply it to the problem of tackling child abuse online, you will get results.”
Don’t be at all surprised to hear politicians continue to justify the internet surveillance done by the GCHQ and NSA by claiming they are helping fight child abusers.