The war on terror hijacked for the war on privacy

I’m always wary when politicians use highly unusual and (thankfully) statistically rare and tragic events to promote change in society. As you can imagine this means my ‘wary senses’ are tingled often, especially after an incident such as the recent Paris attacks.

I don’t consider myself a great champion of privacy; in fact, I view it as a relatively recent notion, especially when considering historical societal and familial structures. And to be honest, I am more concerned with my data in the hands of unaccountable corporate behemoths, than with government.

Having said that, it gets me down that every single tragic, violent, unusual, act of terrorism, is used as a springboard by politicians to denounce encryption, tout for an enlargement of mass data surveillance, and even clamp down on Bitcoin.

It’s all very tiresome.

Dragnet, just-in-case, mass data collection doesn’t work very well and can in fact be counter-productive. As the mass of trivial data becomes overwhelming, burying the important stuff, sorting through it becomes akin to drinking from a firehose. In other words, the signal-to-noise ratio becomes hugely unbalanced.

Overwhelming quantity of data has been cited as a major factor for the inability to foil several terrorist attacks in recent years and yet the push is for more.

It doesn’t make sense, but Paul Bernal in the New York Times today certainly does:

…..mass surveillance is, in itself, poorly suited to addressing this kind of terrorism. It is crucial to note that the perpetrators of all the major terrorist attacks in the West over recent years – from the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in London and the Boston bombing in 2013, the Sydney Siege in 2014 to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in 2015 – were already known to the authorities.

Paul goes on to say that we need:

targeted, intelligence-based and “human-led” approach.

And I agree.

And I think it’s time for governments to stop hijacking these tragedies and all terrorist activities – real or imagined – to push their agenda. I mean, the other day we had a welcome statement from Chancellor George Osborne pledging to double spending on CyberCrime. This is great news. But instead of lauding the fact all of this cash will contribute to protecting business, creating new jobs, pushing the UK to the forefront of Information Security, and so forth, he rolls out the tired “ISIS Cyber attack” meme. And the media buy into this crap.

The Daily Telegraph, a publication of undeniable repute, has been providing some of the most lucid, fact-based reporting on the threat. Fraser Nelson, the editor of common sense purveyor The Spectator, wrote a very informative column urging us all to give up our private data to the spies because there’s a “new breed of Isil terrorists”, as if varieties of inhuman sorcerer insurrectionists had copulated and procreated.

They are “masters of computer hacking” and have found a way to find “email programmes [sic] that you can download from iTunes” with encryption keys “that are unknown even to the provider”. So somewhere amidst all that lovely music and LOLorific podcasting, there are evil computer messaging platforms that no one else can find, no matter how long they rifle through Bieber tunes for the inevitable stenographic signifiers.

You should read the entire piece by Thomas Fox-Brewster it’s excellent in that cringy sort of way.

What I’m trying to say is terrorists do terror to subjugate and terrify. They hope their actions will negatively impact our lives. In view of this, I wish governments would stop playing into their hands and stop stoking fear to promote their agenda.

Politicians should come clean for once, make their case logically, without polemics and without insulting our intelligence.