Big Companies and Surveillance

This session started with an attack on F-Secure, one of the conference sponsors for over-promising on their adverts and then looked at the difference in response to the Snowden leaks between the US, UK and the rest of the EU. In the US, they are beginning to win the right to publish transparency reports even in the light of super-injunctions and while the so called Freedom Bill has hit a road block, US legislators on the whole are responding to the Snowden leaks by re-establishing citizen’s (constitutional) rights. The problem for the rest of the world is that the US Constitution only protects citizens and that excludes a lot of the US Datenkraken’s customers. In Europe, and the European Parliament there is great concern, but not so in the UK, where there is little debate and little political movement, and what movement that does exist is in the wrong direction. The recent speech by Robert Hannigen the new Director of GCHQ arguing against effective encryption and the need for back doors is a case in point and we need to ask where’s the evidence, apart from TV fiction, that back doors are needed. There’s no question that if we follow the spooks, the innocent will have no privacy and the baddies will. This raises the question made by spokesman for Vodafone last year that if companies move to making privacy a deliverable and competitive advantage, the world will change. But partly because most of us in Britain have so little experience of a secret police that while the US continues to exercise its economies of scale and reins back its intrusion on its citizens, and the EU borrowing from its collective history builds privacy laws and systems, the UK’s completive advantage will be that we’ll spy on anyone. How we got here from the session title I am not so sure.

Image credit by gunes t @flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2006,

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