Encryption

U.K. Official Wants You to Stop Sneering at Her for Trying to Destroy Your Privacy

Amber Rudd admits that she doesn't understand encryption while insisting on the need to undermine it.

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Amber Rudd
Anthony Devlin/ZUMA Press/Newscom

I'll have to give U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd points for bluntly, openly making it clear that the battle between government officials and tech companies over data encryption and privacy is happening because people like her neither understand nor care about the implications of their demands.

Rudd, Prime Minister Theresa May, and leaders in other countries have been fighting to force (or just convince) social media platforms, app makers, and other tech companies to make it easier for officials to access private conversations on demand. The aim, they say, is to fight crime and terrorism.

At the same time, these companies have been strengthening their encryption in order to protect people from having their private data compromised. Tough-to-break encryption protects people from identity theft and fraud, and we've seen what happens when companies have poor data protection systems.

But while everybody is shaking their heads at the terrible data-keeping revelations coming out about Equifax (the latest: Equifax stored consumer data in a non-encrypted format, so hackers who breached their systems were easily able to read the information), Rudd pretty much doesn't care. At an event this week, Rudd said she doesn't understand how encryption works but knows that it can keep the government from accessing data it wants, so Something Must Be Done.

From the BBC:

[Rudd] insisted she does not want "back doors" installed in encryption codes, something the industry has warned will weaken security for all users, nor did she want to ban encryption, just to allow easier access by police and the security services.

Asked by an audience member if she understood how end-to-end encryption actually worked, she said: "It's so easy to be patronised in this business. We will do our best to understand it.

"We will take advice from other people but I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right."

She added: "I don't need to understand how encryption works to understand how it's helping—end-to-end encryption—the criminals.

"I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that."

Rudd was subsequently "sneered at" yet again for not grasping the obvious: Allowing easier access by police and security services into encrypted data inherently involves creating "back doors."

It's particularly telling that Rudd wants to make this a debate about how she's being mocked even as she yet again fails to show any actual concern about the security of citizen data. She's being mocked for a reason (as is Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who responded to the encryption debate by saying the laws of mathematics are subservient to the laws of Australia).

The mockery is not because she's a rube who doesn't know all the ins and outs of how encryption works. Most people don't and probably never will, even as they depend on it to protect their private information.

Rudd and others like her are being mocked because they're constantly, repeatedly refusing to consider or care about the dangers to private citizens when data are not secure. Any tool or mechanism that can be used to bypass cybersecurity can be used by anybody who has access to it (or is able to replicate it). There is no such thing as a tool to bypass data security that only the "right people" can use.

Rudd wants to make every citizen of the United Kingdom—indeed, everyone around the world—give up privacy to help fight crime. But her policy would put all of us at a greater risk of crime, and would further expose us to surveillance from people with sinister intentions.

Equifax, which failed so terribly to protect U.S. consumers' data, has now received a $7.5 million no-bid contract from the IRS to verify the identities of taxpayers and prevent fraud. Governments already do a terrible job protecting citizens' privacy. The last thing we should want is to let them compromise the cybersecurity on offer from private companies.

NEXT: No, the Post-9/11 Response to Terrorism Is Not a Good Model for Gun Policy

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  1. They don’t want to fight crime. They want to destroy any semblance of privacy. Only government can have secrets.

    1. I’ve said it a million times – privacy is dead. And it’s not even a matter of giving up and letting the government get its way. No, it is an issue of technology intersecting with human nature. People aren’t going to put up with the inconvenience that true privacy requires. Hell, this outfit did a whole issue on all of this years ago, trying to put a positive spin on it. I don’t think it’s positive, but it’s reality.

      1. Privacy is not dead unless we The People let it be dead.

    2. “”Only government can have secrets.””

      Except that the criminals will also have those secrets. Which is what that scornworthy bitch refuses to understand.

      p.s. Not sure if I’m allowed to say “bitch”. If I’m not, please substitute “woodchipper-ready person”

      1. “”Only government can have secrets.””

        Except that the criminals will also have those secrets.

        There’s a difference?

        1. According to government, there’s a difference. Viewed from outside the government, often not.

  2. Well, if a liberal wants it, why should logic, reason, or physics stand in the way?

  3. At the risk of being banned by Reason for writing a comment on an article.

  4. I am super sneering at you Amber Rudd!

    Fuck off slaver!

  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

    Anyone who hasn’t seen this should see it. Highly relevant, and especially topical to this discussion.

    It’s the daily life of a (software) engineer. Quite amusing.

    1. Bookmarked. Excellent!

  6. She’s being mocked for a reason (as is Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who responded to the encryption debate by saying the laws of mathematics are subservient to the laws of Australia).

    To be fair to Turnbull, most basic laws of reality are terrified to set foot in Australia.

    1. Perhaps someone should suggest to Turnbull that Australia can get a lead in space travel by repealing the law of gravity.

  7. Rudd said she doesn’t understand how encryption works but knows that it can keep the government from accessing data it wants

    The government had jolly well better not encrypt its own data!

  8. She also says that those who view “far-right propaganda” on the Internet should face imprisonment”

    “I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions, face the full force of the law.”

    No word on penalties for those viewing far-left propaganda.

    https://tinyurl.com/ycqsa4fg

  9. http://arstechnica.com/informa…..2013-hack/

    Speaking of privacy, every Yahoo account that ever existed, all 3 billion of them, were compromised by hackers in 2013. The CEO then was none other than Marissa Mayer. I guess she was too busy leaning in to get promotions she didn’t deserve and jobs for which she was not qualified to worry about the personal data of the poor schmucks who patronized her company.

    The problem with corporations is that when they get big enough, they end up socializing losses to customers and stockholders while privatizing much of the gain to the leadership. Mayer is a great example of this. She walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and is no worse off in the least for the damage done to Yahoo and its customers under her leadership.

    1. The law makes exceptions to the corporate veil in some circumstances; civil rights law and environmental law are the two best examples. If Yahoo had systematically ignored civil rights laws or environmental laws the way it seems to have systematically ignored the principles of internet security and privacy protection of its customers, Mayer and a lot of other people at the company then would be out on bond right now putting their affairs together before starting a significant stay in federal prison.

      The other thing about privacy and tech is that the cartelish nature of the big tech firms makes it very hard for the market to solve this issue. You don’t trust Yahoo with your data? Switch to Google or Facebook. That ought to work out well.

      So why not make privacy protection more like civil rights and environmental law. Why should Mayer and the rest of those in charge at Yahoo in 2013 be able to walk away unscathed for what can only be described as a complete disregard for the privacy and security of their customers and after that disregard has caused untold harm? I don’t think they should be.

  10. Every time some government agent says we must have ways for governments to get around security, they need to be corrected and it pointed out what they are actually saying, which is that we must have ways for criminals to get around security. If they don’t understand that, then point out the leaking of the NSA hacking tools this year. If the NSA can’t keep their hacking tools from leaking, then no government organization anywhere will be able to keep any encryption backdoors and tools from leaking. So, anything you give the government will inevitably land in the hands of criminals.

    1. When authority gets tunnel vision, reality is beyond scope.

  11. She can suck my asshole. The “industry” already had problems with snooping on their own customers (which is okay since it’s their services, but still); the last thing we need is more government intrusion.

  12. U.K. Official Wants You to Stop Sneering at Her for Trying to Destroy Your Privacy – Hit & Run : Reason.comis the best post by imo for pc Please visit imo app imo app snaptube for pc snaptube app

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