Following on from David Cameron’s recent announced policy of banning strong encryption, it has been revealed that in 1997 the Government of the day had a plan to restrict encryption.
The revelation comes in a long forgotten Public Consultation Paper issued in March 1997, which proposed that the use of encryption should be restricted to Trusted Third Parties (TTPs) who would be licensed and regulated by the Government. These TTPs would provide a range of encrypted communication services to businesses for e-commerce purposes, while allowing the Government a back-door into such communications.
It is clear from the document that by 1997 politicians had realised that electronic commerce was dependent upon secure communication. However, as is the still very much the case today, they were paranoid that encryption would interfere with the ability of Government bodies such as the security services to monitor communications. The document provides an interesting historical insight into the mindset of a 1990’s Government and its now somewhat laughable belief that encryption technologies could somehow be centrally controlled.
The consultation document was published only six weeks before the 1997 General Election, but appears to have been forgotten about after the election.
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 The 2006 Identity Cards Act that was repealed by the coalition government also allowed any public authority access to the National Identity Register “for the purpose of securing the efficient and effective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.
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.
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.