Following only a single day of scathing opprobrium from a handful of British press outlets (most notably the Guardian), the Adam Smith Institute, Nick Clegg, Twitter (including Infosec Taylor Swift) and this very blog (busiest day ever – 3,000-odd visitors), it appears the Conservatives are backing down on the “banning encryption” thing. (EDIT: Maybe. Apparently Theresa May went on the floor of the Commons this morning (14 Jan) and repeated the point – perhaps she didn’t get the memo sent by the entire internet.) From TechCrunch:
TechCrunch understands alarm at the potential implications of Cameron’s comments even extended to the U.K.’s VC investment community — which makes sense, given that Internet businesses wouldn’t be able to function without encryption. So in a move that will shock precisely no one, the back channel back-pedalling has begun.
Or, as I put it to the Guardian’s Alex Hern yesterday:
I’d be very surprised if the Conservatives stick to their guns on this.
Our Thelonious blockchain database back-end is controlled by developers rolling them, not us. That UK devs will continue to be able to use Thelonious-class blockchains post-May 2015 is pretty great.
Back to TechCrunch. Continuing:
Downing Street sources said the PM’s words had been misinterpreted, and that he was not, in fact, singling out encryption, or any particular Internet companies, for a ban.
Seriously? Because I could have sworn the Prime Minister said something different, like
Will we be able to access the content of communications as the Internet and new ways of communicating develop?
Now I have a simple principle to apply here which will be at the heart of the legislation that will be necessary and the simple principle is this: in our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which even in extremis, with a signed warrant from the Home Secretary personally, that we cannot read?
Up until now, governments in this country have said no. No, we must not have such a means of communication…
…But the question remains: are we going to allow a means of communication where it simply isn’t possible to do that?
Any my answer to that question is no – we – must – not. (Emphasis original.) The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.
Don’t get me wrong, I like linguistic gymnastics as much as anyone – I am a lawyer, after all – but that’s clearly singling out encryption, and indeed requires reference to it in order to make any sense at all. “No-we-must-not.” Words are incapable of less ambiguity. Even Bill Clinton, also a lawyer, would have had a hard time wriggling out of that one.
But enough about Bill Clinton.
This is England. We’re all friends here. No harm, no foul, right?
Although another government source declined to confirm to TechCrunch that a future Conservative government would not be seeking to ban encryption when we asked directly. So the Tories are evidently not committing to ending all encryption-banning rhetorical outbursts in future.
By which time Eris Industries will have rolled and open-sourced even more capable cryptographically secure distributed application systems than we’ve got today, and hopefully create a few British jobs in the process.
Until next time, chaps.