UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that if re-elected, he will consider introducing legislation that would ban encrypted online communication apps, including WhatsApp, Snapchat, CryptoChat, and Apple’s iMessage.
Cameron’s announcement is part of his plan to increase the UK government’s surveillance capabilities in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks that took place in France last week.
“Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron said Monday while campaigning. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’ The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.”
Privacy and anonymity advocates have responded to Cameron’s proposed legislation with skepticism.
Some, such as Emma Carr, Director of Big Brother Watch, condemn the UK Prime Minister’s use of the Charlie Hebdo attacks to justify greater government intrusion into people’s lives.
“It is wholly unacceptable for this tragedy in Paris to be used as a means to call for a return of the ‘snooper’s charter,’” Carr said, referring to Cameron’s plans to increase the ability of UK security services to monitor internet communications.
“It is the wrong solution and would divert resources from focused surveillance operations at a time when the agencies are already struggling to cope with the volume of information available.”
Others, including UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have interpreted privacy as a “qualified right” but have noted that Cameron’s legislation would go too far.
“The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then, in the next, advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens,” Clegg is reported to have stated.
Cameron has acknowledged the implicit dangers in his announcement and stated that the home secretary would still need to sign a warrant in order to access user information. However, many observers are still concerned by Cameron’s plans.
Privacy advocates’ reactions to this latest news echo the responses of many observers following the UK government’s announcement last month that it would bolster its abilities to track down pedophiles that use the “dark net.”