Apparently there is a new head of GCHQ. Britain’s agency for spying on its own citizens and the Americans and at times some Johnny foreigners that wish ill of the UK.
We have been made aware of this because the new head has made a public statement condemning the big social media networks for becoming the “the command and control networks of choice for terrorists”.
By terrorists I presume he is mostly talking about the likes of ISIS / ISIL / IS / whatever they are called this week. You know, that bunch of mad dog extremists who are trying to torture and murder people into joining their version of Islam.
Oh, am I still allowed to actually say Islam in the same sentence as terrorist or extremist, these days it’s getting hard to know what is or is not forbidden speech.
Anyway the new boss of GCHQ has come out in public and made, what is on the face of it, a mind mindbogglingly stupid statement, coming as it does from the man in charge of the government agency that is responsible for monitoring people’s online activity.
An organistaion that should have at least a basic understanding of the internet, but it’s a government department so you can hardly expect the politically appointed boss to have a clue what his department does.
He has been critising the major tech firms, he doesn't mention any names but I think everyone is presuming he means Facebook, Google, Twitter etc, of being “In Denial” over the role they play in modern terrorism.
Apparently their technology has allowed terrorist groups to hide from security organisations like his.
Does he live in the 21st century, does he use the internet. Perhaps his own staff should brief him, or is he simply repeating the same line that we heard from his predecessors and from far too many politicians who are making vague statements and name dropping terror groups as justification for censoring the internet.
All in the name of keeping us safe of course.
He also said this: “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age. But privacy has never been an absolute right and the debate about this should not become a reason for postponing urgent and difficult decisions.”
I thought we had been having this debate for a while now and we had simply been ignored as the Nasty government rushed through Laws or simply ignored the debate and went on with spying on people.
A mature debate on privacy, we keep trying but the government doesn't want to listen because they have no way to debate privacy with us that doesn't devolve into fear mongering.
Pedophiles / Terrorists are everywhere and we must monitor your emails to protect your children!
Yes pedophiles are everywhere, the whole political class seems to be riddled with them which is why the whole political system and our MPs and political parties are working so hard to ruin any attempt to investigate the problem.
Anyway let’s look at what the man has said. Privacy is not an absolute right, what does he mean by absolute, the United Nations Convention on Human Rights seems to think personal privacy is a Human Right. We know this government considers the privacy of non MPs to be irrelevant, is that what he means when he says not an absolute right?
Also GCHQ is willing to debate the problem but does not want a debate to delay urgent and difficult decisions. Well it didn't, we tried to debate and the government rushed through the Digital snoopers law anyway.
What exactly is he proposing, more of the same that we have been hearing from the government for years now (I say government but Labour are just as guilty in that they support and do not oppose these laws), more monitoring, more spying. Is he talking about censorship, perhaps the end to real time posting. Log on to Facebook or post a tweet and then wait hours while it is checked by software or an agent before it is allowed to be seen by others.
Terror groups using Twitter to control their agents, companies using Twitter to coordinate their staff, terror groups using Facebook to plan attacks, companies using Facebook to get sales. Unless you are dealing with people stupid enough to use words like bomb or murder how do you tell the difference.
The answer is you don’t unless you have reason to suspect the people posting. So what measures does he think he can force the big tech companies to put into effect that will either work or if a blanket ban will not cripple of destroy the ability of thousands of innocent companies to do business.
How about working to enhance counter terror messages, countering the arguments made by groups like Islamic State (is it illegal to call them that yet?), how about helping people to hear the truth of what ISIS are doing, the counter radical message. Would this not be banned along with the extremists they oppose because they are using the same words and appealing to the same communities?
The Internet is an integral part of our world now, we live in the Digital nation. We do business there, we live there, it is our world. Trying to take an axe to chunks of it will hurt the general users and have absolutely no effect on the tech savvy who will work around any censorship or government imposed limits.
Tech savvy, you know, like many modern day Terrorists.
One response to the GCHQ statement was this: “It’s disappointing to see GCHQ’s new director refer to the internet – the greatest tool for innovation, access to education and communication humankind has ever known – as a command-and-control network for terrorists.”
Disappointing but not surprising.
Yet another government drive for controlling us by controlling what we can say or learn.