There is a famous quote, often attributed to Mark Twain (although it is doubtful that he ever said this). It reads, “History never repeats itself, but it does rhyme.” Well, here’s a familiar verse: The conservative leader of a Western industrialized nation is using a recent tragedy to justify the increased surveillance of its citizens.
Last time this happened, it was 2001. Remember the USA Patriot Act? Remember how indefinite detentions and warrantless wiretapping are now most likely going to be a permanent part of the American culture and legal system, and how much that sucks?
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has apparently forgotten this lesson. Or maybe he remembered it all too well.
Using the recent attacks in Paris as an impetus, Cameron has begun to fast-track legislation known as the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, better known among Britons as the Snooper’s Charter. Cameron has doubled down on his awfulness, because not only is this a terrible, cynical way to pass a law, but also the Snooper’s Charter is a terrible law in and of itself.
Here’s just one of the many terrible things the Snooper’s Charter will accomplish. Let’s say that you’re producing some kind of secure communication software. The British government, under this bill, will have the power to say, “we’d like to read the things that people are saying on this secure communication channel. Please build us a backdoor.” So, this is stupid in two ways. First of all: having a backdoor in your program is like waving a big sign that says “Hackers enter here.” There’s no way to make sure that only government officials can exploit that loophole. And if the software manufacturer tries to warn people that the loophole exists, they can be sent to prison.
So, that’s irredeemably awful, and that’s only one bullet-point of awfulness in a long and awful law. The past is repeating itself, and if you want to imagine the future, picture a boot stamping on your internet connection — forever.
[Post image via Shutterstock]