UK close to banning the use of WhatsApp, iMessage and SnapChat to protect National Security.

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Applications that provide an encrypted messaging platform, like WhatsApp, are under threat by countries that are increasingly reliant on snooping as part of their National Security strategy. The UK is proposing a new law as part of their “Snoopers Charter”, also known as Draft Communication Bill, to enforce a ban on applications like WhatsApp, iMessage and SnapChat that use encrypted messages. Under this new proposed bill, Internet Service Providers must monitor the online activity of customers and keep logs of their activities for 12 months.

This isn’t a surprise though, as the use of mass surveillance to protect national security and counter terrorism is widely used and increasing around the world. The five most controversial ones include:

China – 1998 the Great Firewall of China

ChinaFirewall This is a censorship and surveillance program designed by the Chinese government to filter and control the content that is accessed by the public. This program also prohibits individuals from using the internet to harm national security, spread false rumors or encourage socially undesirable behavior like gambling, violence or murder. This is an extremely controversial program that China has been widely criticized for by human rights and civil liberties groups.
USA – 2001 Patriot Act
USA This was introduced following the September 11 and anthrax attacks. This was an extremely controversial bill which many felt was an over-extension of the US government’s surveillance powers. Some of the most controversial parts allowed government agencies to:
  • Confiscate the property of foreigners who are believed to have aided in a war or an attack on the USA.
  • Authorize the roving surveillance of any individuals under investigation (using any means available to intercept a person’s communications. An extension of wire-tapping)
  • Authorize the use of National Security Letters to demand a release of information about individuals without them knowing.
  • Detain terrorism suspects without providing them with access to lawyers and without hearings or formal charges

This law was controversial as it reversed many of the civil liberties that were guaranteed under the US Constitution e.g. right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Originally introduced by the Bush administration, subsequent US administrations have tried to remove it but the US has grown too reliant on this as an Anti-Terrorism measure. The original bill which expired in 2011, has been renewed two times since (including in 2015) and will be up for renewal again in 2019.

France – 2015 Patriot Act
france Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, France passed their own version of the Patriot Act in June this year. Despite opposition from civil liberties groups, the bill was passed by the Senate on June 9 2015 with overwhelming support. This gives French government agencies the authorization to conduct mass surveillance over all communications without judicial approval and deploy new infrastructure to sniff all electronic communications. The new law also requires Internet Service providers to be able to crawl through internet traffic to identify terrorist activities.
Australia – 2015 Data Retention laws
fiveeyes Australia has been wire-tapping phones for years and this has increased year-on-year. The government has also requested ISP’s and search engines (like Google) to provide private information on web browsing histories and private user information. And transparency reports have shown that this activity is increasing. As of August 2014, government agencies can obtain this information without a warrant or user disclosure. Recently, the government has passed a data retention bill that mandates ISP’s to store data on user activities for two years. Australia is also part of the Five Eyes alliance.
Russia – SORM (System of Operative Measures)
russia Russia is a surveillance state and their powers are extensive. This has even led to US issuing this travel warning ahead of tourists travelling to Sochi for the 2013 Winter Olympics.
“Consider traveling with “clean” electronic devices—if you do not need the device, do not take it. Otherwise, essential devices should have all personal identifying information and sensitive files removed or “sanitized.” Devices with wireless connection capabilities should have the Wi-Fi turned off at all times. Do not check business or personal electronic devices with your luggage at the airport. … Do not connect to local ISPs at cafes, coffee shops, hotels, airports, or other local venues. … Change all your passwords before and after your trip. … Be sure to remove the battery from your Smartphone when not in use. Technology is commercially available that can geo-track your location and activate the microphone on your phone. Assume any electronic device you take can be exploited. … If you must utilize a phone during travel consider using a “burn phone” that uses a SIM card purchased locally with cash. Sanitize sensitive conversations as necessary” http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/fall2013/Russia-surveillance
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2 thoughts on “UK close to banning the use of WhatsApp, iMessage and SnapChat to protect National Security.

  1. Unfortunately this is the world we live in. Privacy is pretty much gone. This of course is because they want to protect us. I just feel like there are some things that are worth being slightly more endangered for. I’d rather have my privacy than have “security”. I’m not entirely convinced that mass surveillance even really works as well as they claim. That’s a whole lot of data to sift through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess the states have become reliant on this and I can appreciate how this can be useful. What I worry about is whether they abuse it. If I say today that I believe in “xyz” and the government of tomorrow believes that everyone who expresses that opinion needs to be persecuted then we have a problem. We can’t guarantee what kind of government we end up with in the future and at least in Australia, there is some doubts about how trustworthy our current gov is

      Like

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