Sinister drive to read your messages in the name of fighting terrorism
Today the paper backs Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s calls for a ‘back door’ into people’s WhatsApp messages in the wake of the Westminster terrorist attack.
It’s front page screams, ‘WHAT SIDE ARE YOU ON, WHATSAPP?’, implying failure to do as the government wants is equal to being on the side of the terrorists.
The paper’s Sun Says editorial today is less vox populi than the voice of an authoritarian state:
“THERE really shouldn’t be any need to bring in new laws to force tech companies to cooperate with the security services.
But unless they start to behave properly there will be no alternative.”
“Their [tech companies’] defining feature is their arrogance.
The likes of Facebook and Google behave as if they are bigger and more important than any nation or elected politician.
On past form, all they’ll do after meeting Ms Rudd is tell their PR merchants to carry on defending the indefensible.
It’s time they started to face the consequences of their behaviour.”
The Sun has form here. Back in September 2015 the paper supported the Communications Data Bill – a reborn Snoopers’ Charter, later dropped in favour of the Investigatory Powers Bill – writing:
“So it is vital, as MI5 chief Andrew Parker says, that his spooks have every power to track internet, phone and social media use and crack encrypted apps. […]
Twitter, Facebook and others must prioritise public safety over the privacy of terrorists or their supporters and come forward with suspicious posts.
And Britain must no longer luxuriate in hand-wringing debates about ‘snooping’ when the price is hampering those on the front line of the intelligence war.”
Naturally the paper – fresh from shopping its reporters to police over Murdoch employees hacking people’s phones – called for an exemption for journalists.
Obviously this position ignores tech companies’ aversion to the brand damage associated with letting the government access people’s private data. (Selling that data to advertising companies, on the other hand…) WhatsApp in particular is billed as a secure ‘encrypted’ place to talk.
But the impressive speed of the government’s power grab after police said terrorist Khalid Masood used WhatsApp before his attack is matched by the willingness of some newspapers to fall in line.
Last week the press proved its worth, covering a breaking story well and ferreting out more facts to inform the public.
This morning they have allowed the Home Secretary to set the agenda, and in some cases been the intellectual shock troops of a sinister attack on the public’s privacy rights.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.