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Scaremongering from Spy Agents

In an article for the Financial Times, Mr Hannigan—the chief of the British spy agency GCHQ said:

“I understand why they [US technology companies] have an uneasy relationship with governments. They aspire to be neutral conduits of data and to sit outside or above politics.”

“But increasingly their services not only host the material of violent extremism or child exploitation, but are the routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism.”

“However much they may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.”

“GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age. But privacy has never been an absolute right and the debate about this should not become a reason for postponing urgent and difficult decisions.”

Their cause has been helped by Mr Snowden as they copy his high level of encryption, with some programmes and apps even advertised as “Snowden approved”. He said: “There is no doubt that young foreign fighters have learned and benefited from the leaks of the past two years”.

Mr Hannigan said that families have “strong views” about the ethics of companies and do not expect the social networks they use to “facilitate murder or child abuse”.

I received an interesting comment from my American colleague Chris Savage on these remarks

“Nothing the enormous number of crimes committed using trucks and automobiles, Britain’s spy chief could as well lashed out at General Motors, Ford, and other automobile companies as providing enormous amounts of aid and comfort to criminals. “Just think about how many criminals were able to commit their crimes only with—or heavily facilitated by—the use of automobiles. Automobiles make it easier to get to crime scenes. They make it easier to get away, including carrying stolen goods or abducted people. They can even be used as places to hide, or as means of committing crimes, including terrorism such as notorious ‘car bombs.”

In short, don’t blame the tools blame the people. “People kill people”.

Obviously it is too easy to just leave it by this.

We need to have intelligent conversation about what new tools like the Internet do. We simply can’t do without it any more. The Internet facilitates communications, it facilitates surveillance, it facilitates deception in various ways, including encryption and steganography. So it’s easier to communicate, easy to surveil, and easier to deceive. The ease of communications is worth trillions in economic terms, and uncountable good in terms of potential civic involvement, elimination of ignorance, etc. As with the previous discussion on data retention, we need a balanced approach and scaremongering as done by spy agents, politicians and the media are not helping in such a debate.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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