The latest updates in the NSA spying scandal shows that the US and UK spy agencies, the NSA and GCHQ, have developed ways around encryption. Encryption is essential to the functioning of the internet – it’s what keeps our bank account details, medical records and emails and conversations private. A number of encryption standards have been used, including https, and SSL.
The spies have cracked these, by building sophisticated decryption software, and more worryingly, through the collusion of tech companies, who have built in backdoors. This means that these companies lied to us when they promised us security and privacy.
This also has worrying implications for identity theft – if backdoors have been built in, what is to stop criminals from stealing our data? At a time when more and more of us keep essential information online and in the cloud, trust in privacy is fundamental. This is like being told that your landlord has secretly given a set of keys to your house to the government.
It is impossible for democracy to function in an environment of total surveillance, because it makes it very easy for the state to target, misrepresent and attack anyone it sees as inconvenient.
We need to fight for the freedom of the internet. In the short term, we need to start using as many online privacy tools as we can – for example, encrypting emails with PGP.
The G20 has been dominated by the crisis in Syria, and a blustering standoff between Russia and the West. World leaders need to stop playing politics with people’s lives.
China Labor Watch reports that, once again, Apple is at the centre of a scandal around working conditions, this time in a factory producing the new iPhone 5C.
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