January 13, 2015 Last Updated 7:23 am

British Prime Minister suggests in speech that UK should ban encrypted messaging services

Speech and TV interview give impression that David Cameron would move to ban services such as WhatsApp and Snapchat if reelected

The UK Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday suggested that the UK should consider banning encrypted messaging services, though the speech where he did so, did not contain specifics such as what apps should be banned.

Politicians often get themselves into trouble when discussing technology, and this speech, given as part of his reelection tour, was immediately taken as a sign that Cameron wants to ban such apps as WhatsApp and Snapchat. Tech sites, as well as parts of the press, immediately pounced, while conservative newspapers ignored the speech.

DC-UKPM“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people, which even an extremist, with a signed warrant from the Home Secretary personally, we can not read,” asked the Prime Minister.

“Up until now, governments of this country have said ‘no’. We must not have such a means of communication,” said Cameron. “The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.”

The speech followed an interview with ITV where he said basically the same thing: “I think we cannot allow modern forms of communication to be exempt from the ability, in extremis, with a warrant signed by the Home Secretary, to be exempt from being listened to,” Cameron told ITV.

The Guardian’s James Ball said the obvious, that one can not simply get rid of encryption and expect that technology can continue to serve businesses and consumers.

“But it’s in the practicalities that the prime minister’s approach slips from draconian to dull-witted. There is no such thing as “good guy encryption” and “bad guy encryption”. The same encryption that protects you and me protects companies, protects governments, and protects terrorists.”

“If Cameron is proposing an end to encryption in the UK, then any information sent across the internet would be open for any company, government, or script kiddie with 10 minutes “hacking” experience to access. It would spell the end of e-commerce, private online communications and any hope of the UK having any cybersecurity whatsoever.”

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