Once again the role of technology firms has been called into question in the never ending debate over ‘policing the Internet’. This time its new GCHQ boss, Robert Hannigan, who has suggested the need for a new ‘deal’ between the technology industry and intelligence organisations such as GCHQ.
[caption id="attachment_135" align="alignleft" width="128"]Paul Heritage-Redpath, Product Manager
Hannigan requested the new deal between “democratic governments and technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens”. However, Julian David, CEO of TechUK which represents 860 technology companies has been amongst the first to reject the idea stating: “To ensure public confidence, both in the digital economy and our democracy as a whole, any obligations placed upon technology companies must be based upon a clear and transparent legal framework and effective oversight rather than, as suggested, a deal between the industry and government,”
Hannigan also suggested that technology firms are in ‘denial’ about the use of their services by criminal and terrorist organisations to which David replied:
“He is wrong to suggest that this is an issue that technology companies are in denial about. As we made clear in our recent tech manifesto, technology firms which we represent have important legal obligations to work with government to help keep the UK safe and secure which they take extremely seriously.”
ISPA echoed these concerns and the need for legislative reform stating: “For this debate to proceed properly, the security services, law enforcement and Government have to be more open and transparent about existing capabilities…If greater or clearer powers are needed, the case needs to be made via thorough consultation and legislative proposals should be placed in Parliament for further scrutiny.”
Jim Killock from ORG agreed commenting: "It should be down to judges, not GCHQ nor tech companies, to decide when our personal data is handed over to the intelligence services."
This is an argument that we have covered and commented on many, many times before and one that never seems to go away. We understand and appreciate that criminals and terrorists are communicating and conducting more and more of their ‘business’ online and the Police and intelligence organisations need to work with the industry to investigate this. However, ISPs and technology firms are NOT the police and DO NOT and SHOULD NOT have the power to ‘police’ the Internet and their customer’s private communications. That is why we have the RIPA process which provides ISPs et al with a court order requesting the information required for such investigations.
We completely agree that ISPs and technology companies should (and most do) fully comply with all legal investigations but when did WE acquire the power to decide what should and should not be ‘investigated’- I repeat… We are NOT the police or intelligence services! To suggest a ‘deal’ seems underhand and naive to say the least- especially after the Snowden revelations. Customers are more concerned over their privacy than ever before and the industry quite rightly has argued to protect that privacy and place the role of ‘investigator’ firmly in the hands of the courts who are equipped to make such important decisions.
ISPA hits the nail on the head with their suggestion of review and reform over the existing legal processes which have been proven to have been misused and even failed in several instances. Instead of suggesting ‘deals’ Hannigan and his colleagues should be looking to review the existing legal system and recommend improvements to the process which will enable technology firms and the intelligence services to work more closely and effectively whilst following improved legal obligations and requirements.
Have your say!
Do you think technology firms should ‘investigate’ online activity or do you agree that should be handled by the courts? Do you think ISPs and tech firms could do more to help the security agencies and police? Or do you agree that a review of the existing legal processes is the best way forwards? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.