Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No crisis should go to waste

Over the weekend, ISIS gunmen murdered over 120 people in Paris. So naturally, Five Eyes governments are exploiting that crime to undermine our Privacy. In the US, the spies used those dead bodies to immediately demand a ban on encryption. In the UK, politicians did the same. And here in New Zealand, "our" Attorney-General Chris Finlayson immediately fell into line:

Encryption protects your communications and keeps them private - and its the best thing you can do to stop the spooks from casually spying on you. It also protects your internet banking, your online credit card transactions, the New Zealand government's RealMe online authentication service and its planned experiments with online voting. Banning it, or compromising it, means that all of those things are unprotected. It means criminals being able to rob you, use your credit card, and steal your identity. It means hackers, criminals, political parties and foreign governments will be able to fix our elections. But hey, the spies will be able to watch them while they do all of that - then arrest you for it.

Banning or compromising encryption is the stupidest idea ever. It leaves us naked and defenceless on the internet. Clearly, that's how our increasingly totalitarian governments want us - their underlying axiom here seems to be that none of us should ever be allowed to have a private conversation without them listening in. But I doubt that any of us wants that, any more than we think we should all have to go to the mall naked to prevent Paris-style attacks. But if we don't want our governments to exploit this crisis to advance their own agenda, we need to stand up to them. And we need to de-elect every quisling politician who advocates for the spies and their surveillance dystopia.