Carlos Fenollosa

Carlos Fenollosa

Engineer, developer, entrepreneur

Carlos Fenollosa — Blog

Thoughts on science and tips for researchers who use computers

"Think of the terrorists" is the new "Think of the children"

July 11, 2015 — Carlos Fenollosa

If I am prime minister, I will make sure that it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other. That is the key principle: do we allow safe spaces for them to talk to each other? I say no, we don't, and we should legislate accordingly.

—David Cameron

What infuriates me the most is that is such a blind, selfish, first world argument. It implies freedom of speech is granted, ubiquitous, and irreversible, so those who want extra protection must be criminals. Mr. Cameron's statement also assumes that there is no middle ground, and all technologies that can be misused by some party should be illegal. You know, the Hitler-croquettes theorem: since Hitler liked croquettes, croquettes must be bad.

In some countries, the Government can kill you for your political views. Your neighbors can also kill you for what you are—gay, for example. Ill-named "activists" can kill you for private beliefs that don't affect other people, like your stance on abortion. Mafias can kill you for badmouthing. And these all happen in first world countries, can you imagine the rest of the world?

Requesting those people to abandon the tool that is currently saving their lives in exchange for the vague promise of finding terrorists is a false dichotomy. I can understand uneducated people considering this topic as black and white. But a Prime Minister? That's a supreme level of blindness.

Mr. Cameron and others surely understand how the world works. They know that hackings, theft, revolutions, and coups d'etat exist, and those who once were righteous, legal and legitimate may be prosecuted. Something being legal or punishable can quickly change, it is not written in stone, and definitely not universal.

Imagine a Christian in 2011 Syria. They lead an ordinary life, have a job, a Facebook, they send funny memes to their friends, they communicate online. Being a Christian something we can agree is a legitimate and harmless belief and, according to 2011 Syria's laws, legal.

Now meet ISIS. In just a year they have conquered a large portion of the territory and changed some laws considerably. Forbidding Christians in Syria to use encryption is, with Mr. Cameron's words, not allowing people a safe space to communicate with each other, and exposing them to ISIS. You see, in some cases, banning encryption helps terrorists.

That is not a paradox. Encryption is a tool, like a knife, a chainsaw or a Bic pen. Banning a tool has consequences, and arguing at a fallacy level with something as serious as the lives of people is deeply insulting.

We need encryption, period. Personal communications must be private, period. We can discuss the transparency/secrecy balance for governments, but that is a topic for another day.

Governments must find some other way of fighting crime than just exposing everybody naked to make it easier to pick the bad apples.

Encryption is saving lives of gays, Muslims, activists, individuals who are threatened. It is allowing Mr. Cameron to send private texts to their wife without The Sun intercepting them. It is what avoids ISIS to spy on the UK Ministry of Defence intelligence. Does he really not realize that? Is he not that bright? Is he ill-advised? Is he just a hypocrite?

Encryption is avoiding that in a massive wirelessly connected world anybody can listen to what everybody else is saying in any part of the planet. Do we allow safe spaces for people to talk to each other? I say yes, we do, and we should legislate accordingly

When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else

—David Brin

Tags: law, internet

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