I have just read the summary report of the YouGov survey which shows that twice as many UK adults support prioritising security over privacy in public policy. I am surprised that the majority is not higher. Perhaps the vote was distorted by suspicions that the security of politicians is not the same as the security of the people.
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I am unashamedly among those who rate security above privacy but am also highly suspicious of activities which might take away my privacy while doing little or nothing to enhance my security. I happen to believe that the Communications Bill and the surveillance strategy behind it will do neither – but will have some very expensive side effects.
The state has enforced its ability to spy on us since James Duke of York (later James II) killed off the original penny post (a more efficient competitor to Royal Mail) because it was carrying seditious and lascivious correspondence. If the Communications Bill entails enabling BT to be treated as a Tier One operator (like Verizon) it is a similar threat to its competitors. Those who think this a price worth paying deserve to go into exile like King James.
Do we really wish to to take effective action to address, for example, the slide from boredom and alienation, through browsing to perversion, terrorism and violence?
If so, we need to begin by making better use of the budgets and resources available to exploit existing sources of information and make it easier for all telcos and ISPs, not just BT, to provide timely, pre-digested information on a voluntary basis in time to take action – not just to agglomerate mountains of data that may or may not help track down who was responsible after the children have been abused or the bombs have gone off.
That almost certainly requires legislation, including to better protect those who provide voluntary co-operation to law enforcement and the security services, whether as individuals or on a corporate basis. Delaying such action while throwing money at additional technology, let alone throttling the creation of a globally competitive fixed and mobile broadband communications infrastructure, may not be a significant threat to my privacy, but it does not help improve my security either.