EU wants back doors into encryption Software

It has emerged that Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter terrorism co-ordinator, wants companies to be required by law to hand over encryption keys for communication services, in order to allow interception of messages by EU governments.

The revelation came following the leak of an EU document by civil liberties group Statewatch outlining the proposals for discussion at an informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Riga on 29 January 2015.

Section 3 (f) of the document states:

Since the Snowden revelations, internet and telecommunications companies have started to use often de-centralized encryption which increasingly makes lawful interception by the relevant national authorities technically difficult or even impossible. The Commission should be invited to explore rules obliging internet and telecommunications companies operating in the EU to provide under certain conditions as set out in the relevant national laws and in full compliance with fundamental rights access of the relevant national authorities to communications (i.e. share encryption keys).

The document is available here.

The issue is also highlighted on the BBC news website in an article on the launch of an encrypted messaging service called MegaChat, by internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.

The Scottish Government resurrects the National Identity Register

The Scottish Government  has proposed to resurrect the centralized National Identity Register. The proposal is contained within a seemingly anodyne consultation entitled “proposed amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006″. In effect the  proposals set out within the consultation would transform the Scottish NHS register (NHSCR) into a full scale population register accessible to over 120 Scottish authorities, and once on this population register every citizen would be assigned a Unique Citizen Reference Number (“UCRN”). An excellent analysis of what is being proposed has been provided on the Hawktalk blog.

The parallels this scheme has to the UK wide National Identity Scheme strongly debated over a decade ago are uncanny. The 2006 Identity Cards Act that was repealed by the coalition government also allowed any public authority access to the National Identity Register “for the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services”.  The National Identity Scheme also involved the creation of a unique identifying number that could be used to index various databases together. It is clear the ‘database state’ is very much alive north of the border, and along with it the tendency to try to use computers to manage society by watching people.

Furthermore we must not forget that Scotland already has the Identity Card aspect of the repealed UK wide Identity Cards Act. The Scottish ‘National Entitlement Card is run by National Records Scotland which maintain the National Health Service Central Register.  The terms and conditions of these cards clearly explain that when you sign up to one of these cards your are prescribed a Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN). If these proposals go ahead this same UCRN could be used to link the entitlement card usage to the new population database they are proposing to build.

NO2ID can not overstate the seriousness of these proposals. Despite a public outcry against Identity Cards and the National Identity Scheme the Scottish Government has been working to recreate something almost exactly the same north of the border. We urgently need people to become aware of what is being proposed and take immediate political action to oppose these plans. Plans that will increase surveillance, damage privacy and the freedoms of all Scottish citizens.

Nick Clegg condemns calls for revival of the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’

Nigel Morris writes in the Independent that the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has condemned calls for the revival of the Communications Data Bill, otherwise known as the Snoopers’ Charter, following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

It puts him at odds with David Cameron who has promised to give the intelligence services extra surveillance powers if he wins the general election later this year.

Nick Clegg said:

“The snoopers’ charter is not targeted, it is not proportionate, it’s not harmless. It would be a new and dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual.”

Separately, Simon Huges the Liberal Democrat Justice Minister has warned in a press release that introducing the Snoopers’ Charter is a step too far in tackling terrorism.

WhatsApp and iMessage could be banned under new surveillance plans

Andrew Griffin reports in the Independent that David Cameron has said he would ban the use of encryption that cannot be broken by UK security services.

However, such a move could mean that many social media applications such as WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime could be banned, as  they all encrypt user data.

The Prime Minister made the statement while giving a pledge to revive the Snoopers’ Charter, to give the security services greater powers to monitor internet activity following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Many social media companies such as WhatsApp are committed to keeping their services encrypted and unable to be read by authorities, following Edward Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance.