We believe in “open front-doors”

David Cameron has said:

We believe in very clear front doors through legal processes that should help to keep our country safe.

[Reported by Reuters]

He apparently is concerned about the public being able to communicate using encryption. According to press reports Cameron wants to target commercial providers who build encryption into Web chat products. There is already legislation in the UK which makes it an imprisonable offence not to give the authorities a private encryption key on demand. So he clearly wants to go further.

What is somewhat hard to take is the idea that the British government believes in “open front-doors” backed up by legal processes. The Snowden revelations (not seriously contested to be accurate leaks) show that Britain’s GCHQ has been investing heavily in building back-doors unknown to the public. One leak showed that GCHQ Â was concerned about using evidence gained in this way in court in case it laid them open to charges under Britain’s Human Rights Act. In fact GCHQ appears to have “repeatedly” warned about starting a “damaging public debate”.

David Cameron then would appear to be lying through his teeth.

In fact he isn’t, because he is talking about the new system. This is apparently being coordinated with the US (like the old secret one).

The authorities are doing what they usually do when they get caught out doing something illegal. They just make it legal.

The case for the authorities being able to sift through all internet traffic is a strong one. People who object may be misunderstanding. The authorities have to hold all the traffic if they are to be able to carry out investigations into individuals. If someone becomes a target they (quite sensibly) want to sift through that person’s communications for the last year or so. The only way they can do this is if the telecoms companies and ISPs keep logs of everyone’s communications. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they do sift through the data of law-abiding member’s of the public.

Nonetheless it seems surprising that the programme was originally secret. Why was this?