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Dutch Government Says No To 'Encryption Backdoors'

Posted on 15th January 2016

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This BBC story is one of the more recent of many about encryption and encryption back-doors.

The Dutch government says that it will not force technology firms to provide back-door access to encrypted data such as emails and instant messaging. I like their attitude, but it is in direct contradiction to government policy in the USA and UK.

FBI director James Comey said in November "We are not some kind of maniacs who are ideologues against encryption … but we have a problem that encryption is crashing into public safety and we have to figure out, as people who care about both, how to resolve it." It seems clear that the FBI has concluded that, in a contest between privacy and public safety, public safety wins.

Proposals on the table to solve the FBI's dilemma include the outlawing of very strong encryption and back door access for security agencies. Outlawing very strong encryption will ensure that security agencies can crack the encryption, but that also means that criminal organisations, foreign governments, and even terrorists can also crack it. Back door access for security agencies will probably mean that other nations (Russia and China, for example) will be granted such access; plus, given the appalling track record of security agencies (even in the US and UK) in keeping secrets and being hacked, it is only a matter of time until these back-door access channels also leak out to the various other kinds of bad guys.

So no, neither of these proposals work for me.

People sometimes ask me why I am so concerned about my privacy: what is it that I have to hide? Actually, at the moment, I have no great secrets, and put a lot of my life in public view on this site and on social media. That, however, might change: if there is a change in my political environment (e.g. a totalitarian government), then it might be that my privacy becomes a life or death issue for me.

One thing that I can and will do, if legislation erodes my privacy even further, is to choose who has data about me. If Facebook, LinkedIn and Microsoft can’t keep my data secret because of legal constraints, or even for their own purposes, I will do what I can to ensure they have no data about me, including ceasing to be their customer if necessary.