Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Should I Call 999 for a Whambulance?

Robert Hannigan, the head of the GCHQ — sort of the British equivalent of the NSA — wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times:

Terrorists have always found ways of hiding their operations. But today mobile technology and smartphones have increased the options available exponentially. Techniques for encrypting messages or making them anonymous which were once the preserve of the most sophisticated criminals or nation states now come as standard.

It’s unrealistic for governments to shut down all spying and intelligence operations, but why should Apple and Google make it any easier for creepy agencies to peek into and record our everyday communications?

Besides, it’s not as though the new security measures in iOS 8 are uncrackable. Apple’s just not going to do — and, in fact, can’t do — the job of a law enforcement official seeking to extract the data from a perp’s phone.

Hannigan, again:

However much [technology companies] 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. If they are to meet this challenge, it means coming up with better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security and law enforcement agencies than we have now.

Presumably, Hannigan was getting close to the word limit offered to him by the Times, because it cut off the rest of this paragraph. Which, I assume, was to read: “For example, we could stop the bulk collection of data from global internet traffic.” Pity this got cut off in the final version though.


But privacy has never been an absolute right and the debate about this should not become a reason for postponing urgent and difficult decisions.

Act before you think. Shoot first and ask questions later. That’s what they say in Texas and, as it turns out, in Cheltenham.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the spectacular creation that is the world wide web, we need a new deal between democratic governments and the technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens. It should be a deal rooted in the democratic values we share. That means addressing some uncomfortable truths. Better to do it now than in the aftermath of greater violence.

That’s how Hannigan actually ends this thing: with a taunt. Ridiculous.