Browsing Users' Lives

Andrew Parker, head of MI5 and Britain's representative of the international cabal of nosey Parkers1 who wish to scrutinize every bit of our on-line activities—for our own good, of course—is complaining to the BBC about how hard it is to monitor everyone's comings and goings on the Internet. Although he doesn't use the words “going dark,” it's the same nonsense that the FBI is pushing here in the United States.

Normally, this wouldn't be worth remarking on but Mr. Parker assures the BBC that “MI5 [is] not about "browsing the lives" of the public.” He also says that technology companies have an ethical duty to cooperate with the government on encryption. The idea that governments are not “browsing the lives of the public” is ridiculous on its face. They are, in fact, doing just that as Edward Snowden's revelations demonstrate.

All this, as I mentioned the other day, reminds me of the recent contretemps over ad blocking. Mr Parker and his colleagues here in the U.S. are asking us to trust them. But why should we? They've demonstrated over and over again that they will abuse any powers we give them, using tortured interpretations of existing legislation to justify wholesale surveillance of citizens' Internet and phone activities. Now, like the advertisers, they are whining that people are fighting back with strong encryption and other measures to safeguard their privacy.

And like the advertisers, Mr. Parker and his colleagues are arguing that it's unethical to resist their surveillance and that tech companies should help them make that resistance impossible. But, really, this wouldn't be happening if they hadn't abused their authority to begin with. Their current difficulties with encryption are not on the technology companies; they're on them.

Footnotes:

1

Oh the irony!

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