In a move that is sparking outrage across the country, UK is pressing ahead with plans to ban all encrypted communication under stricter laws for social media and online messaging services. Major services including Whatsapp, iMessage and Snapchat could face the ban under the new rules.
The UK’s ‘Investigatory Powers Bill’ will require all ISPs, phone companies and service providers to give access to their data to the government. This will include everything you search online through Google, Facebook and Whatsapp conversations as well as Snapchat photos.
The exact scope of the Bill is still not known but that ambiguity is exactly what makes it such a breach of privacy. Everyone is well versed in vague bills, secret courts and the push for mass surveillance without any clear goal courtesy of Snowden and it would be incredibly naive of us to think it’s a harmless move.
As such, this marks another brazen attempt by a government to use tragedy to push more draconian laws that compromise security and privacy. Recently, the FBI director (who has been pushing for backdoors in major services) admitted that there is no data to back up claims that access to unencrypted communication helps thwart attacks. There are countless other examples but once again, there is a rallying cry of ‘What about the terrorists?’ to gain more control and power over the public.
The Snooper’s Charter, as it has been called by many, has plenty of opponents.
We have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those we think want to do us harm, but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing.
The so-called Snoopers’ Charter is not targeted. It’s not proportionate.
It’s not harmless. It would be a new and dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual.
People who blithely say they are happy for their communications to be open to scrutiny because they have ‘nothing to hide’ have failed to grasp something fundamental about open democratic societies: We do not make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free.
Liberty, which campaigns for civil liberties and human rights in the UK, said:
We take no issue with the use of intrusive surveillance powers per se – targeted surveillance can play an important part in preventing and detecting serious crime.
But the current regime just doesn’t provide sufficient safeguards to ensure that such surveillance is conducted lawfully, and in a necessary and proportionate way.
Will Pakistan Follow in Banning WhatsApp?
While the news bears no direct bearing on Pakistan, it could set up a very dangerous precedent. We know that our law enforcement agencies are tired of these encrypted messaging apps and UK’s ban on WhatsApp (and others) could see other countries following suit.
We fear that Pakistan won’t take a moment in going ahead and legislating against these encrypted apps.