Murdoch’s Sun backs Rudd’s WhatsApp crackdown after Westminster attack

Sinister drive to read your messages in the name of fighting terrorism

 

The Sun newspaper likes to pose as the voice of the people against the powerful, but it rolls over like a puppy when it really matters.

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.”

It concludes:

“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 @AdamBarnett13 

3 Responses to “Murdoch’s Sun backs Rudd’s WhatsApp crackdown after Westminster attack”

  1. Mark McQuade

    We can use these apps to protect out data. We can keep bank info from hackers or business data. After Snowden I simply want the choice.

  2. Craig Mackay

    I’m not sure that Amber Rudd, our Home Secretary, or indeed the nice Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper actually understands what we need from Khalid Masood’s mobile phone. The messages sent between phones are encrypted but once you access the phone you can see the messages, the contacts and the timing of any messages sent via WhatsApp directly. Unless he deleted all the messages (and this can be done but it is not very obvious to most users) they can be read just as clearly and easily as the recipients might see them. Their destinations are easy to find. The point is not WhatsApp’s problem it is the difficulty of accessing the contents of a mobile phone when you don’t have the password or swipe pattern. Strong encryption is popular with the public because of continuing concerns about data breaches from all sorts of organisations from the NHS to commercial companies like Yahoo. The encryption only stops third parties from accessing the messages without accessing the phones of the transmitter and receiver parties. I’m not suggesting that the discussion about encryption should not be had but there is a clear impression that, as usual, government ministers and their assistants don’t really know that much about the technology. At present many organisations continue to be surprisingly negligent with user data. As long as that continues, encryption will be popular.

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