So here, with trepidation, I've ventured into the end-to-end encryption debate with a lecture earlier this month, published by @BlavatnikSchool👇 & a summary article for @prospect_uk 1/15…
Brief summary of a summary: there is ill-will on all sides rather than a focus on the reasonable objectives of both.

For my part, I do NOT believe that privacy advocates & tech companies are indifferent to horrific online crime, particularly involving children. Similarly... 3/15
...nor do I believe that Govts are using the very real problems faced by law enforcement (& to a lesser extent intelligence services) posed by e2e as some sort of emotive front for the expansion of state power. This is, instead, a really hard problem...4/15
That is why it is more than unfortunate that coverage all too frequently inflames the issue. In this👇particular case, it actually misrepresents what the UK Government is actually proposing. More on that in a bit 5/15…
It is also weird that the issue has become so focussed on Facebook, mainly because it, unlike so many others, hasn't yet introduced e2e. It's never unpopular to have a go at FB, and much of it is deserved. But it skews this issue completely and unhelpfully 6/15
For a superb thread on the complexities of the Facebook situation, see this yesterday posted by @elegant_wallaby. It's well worth reading his thoughts about the reality of the child protection challenges in this dilemma 7/15
The UK Govt's policy, presented accurately, is to "develop innovative technologies which demonstrate how tech companies could continue to detect images or videos showing sexual abuse of children while ensuring e2e is not compromised" 8/15…
This is the technological cakeism: have your lawful access cake and eat your e2e feast. As with all 'cakeist' policies, the question is: can it work? Many will say no: look at this well-known response to the client-side scanning proposal, for example 9/15…
Given this well-evidenced scepticism, the onus surely is on govts like UK who believe that it's possible to maintain e2e whilst allowing targeted lawful access is to set out technical details that will convince at least some doubters. Simply telling tech companies to... 10/15
...go away & fix it, even when experts tell them they're arguing with maths, not Silicon Valley executives, and leaving the threat of legal sanction hanging over them, is the wrong approach. The onus is on the Government to change minds. They deserve a chance to try 11/15
But if they can't, it is time to accept e2e as a reality that users want (including the countless government officials across the world flocking to Signal, for example). Focus on mitigations & other forms of detection. There's often another way in. Not always, but often 12/15
It's hard to argue now (not an e2e case, but relevant), that it would have been better if the FBI in the San Bernadino case had been successful in forcing Apple to develop a generically applicable way of unlocking the device. Same holds true for e2e 13/15…
Free, open, highly digitised societies will always be better off through better online security and privacy. But that is not to say the difficulties e2e pose aren't real. So if the Govt's plans to find a middle way don't work, then e2e should NOT be restricted. But...14/15
...the focus then should be on helping law enforcement find alternative ways to counter online harm. There is no place for 'think of the children' memes. The problems are real & the issues are complex, & some goodwill & appreciation of legitimate concerns is needed 15/END

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More from @ciaranmartinoxf

8 Sep
.@troyhunt is bang on: if this first para in @Telegraph article on UK Gov’t encryption policy is accurate, then the policy is insane.

But is it accurate?

I don’t think it is.

I’m not saying it’s a good or bad policy. But it’s not an announcement to hack Facebook.

A 🧵 1/15
The @Telegraph story is based on an article by Home Secretary @pritipatel.

It’s in three parts.

(A) the usual anti e2e rhetoric about its impact on child abuse investigations.

(B) a somewhat surprising statement of principle

(C) one specific new policy announcement. 2/15
I’ll spare you (a): it’s all been said before. But the stuff about the policy principle is, to me, surprising.

The Home Sec is clear she wants to find solutions WITHIN the parameters of e2e.

Not once does she mention setting it aside or banning e2e.

Bear with me 3/15
Read 15 tweets
15 Jul
There's a fascinating bit in the PM's levelling up speech which isn't about him or his administration specifically.

Instead, its another illustration of the extraordinary centralised nature and attitude of the British state 1/7…
Specifically it's about local Government.

The key bit in the speech is this message to local leaders about how they acquire greater powers:

"Come to us with a plan for strong accountable leadership and we will give you the tools to change your area for the better"

It is preceded by a mini-rant about Ken Livingstone and the 'loony left' with the unmissable implication that localism is inherently to be distrusted and only empowered under strict conditions, licensed by Ministers in Whitehall 3/7
Read 8 tweets
2 May
Here's an interview I did with @BenQuinn75 for @guardian on the UK Govt's approach to Northern Ireland, where I was born and grew up.

And here is a (long, sorry) thread on the UK & NI specific constitutional trends & tensions behind my thinking 1/20…
As one of the best writers on complex UK matters, @alexmassie wrote (below), it is the misfortune of the United Kingdom to be governed by people who do not understand the United Kingdom.

It is as true with regard to NI as it is of Scotland 2/20

The UK not only has multiple and complex national identities within it; it also has more than one constitutional tradition. Tensions between them have often been managed well. No longer. See this superb blog from Micheal Keating for @ConUnit_UCL 3/20…
Read 20 tweets
13 Apr
“The position of the UK Gov’t is that there is no lawful, democratic path to Scottish independence for an unspecified number of decades”.

This will change Union from one based on consent to one that survives only by force of law.

Me in @thetimesscot 1/6…
Accompanying news story 👇.

Of course a referendum risks the Union itself. But denying one that people have voted for would change the Union fundamentally, ending the long era of voluntary partnership.

The Union would just be a legal construct 2/6…
Unionists need to decide whether they want to save the Union by convincing enough people to support & cherish it or by hardline legal tactics. It’s one or the other. This new ‘muscular’ unionism feels more like ‘know-your-place’ unionism 3/6…
Read 6 tweets
31 Jan
Among the many problems with this plan is that the proposed reforms are so far-reaching, they’d surely require a referendum 1/ 7…
So would this be a single UK wide referendum or a separate vote in the 4 different parts? If each part of the UK has its own vote, why would Scotland, having been denied an independence referendum it might well by then have voted for in May, vote for this package instead? 2/7
If it’s a single, whole of UK vote, what happens if England votes yes and Scotland votes no? Does it get through? Imposing a new constitution on Scotland with English votes would be a pretty odd way to counter Scottish independence 3/7
Read 7 tweets
10 Jan
Now that the Government’s “war on Whitehall” seems to be over 👇, a thread on this curious episode.

TL;DR Absolutely nothing has changed in the civil service, apart from the identities of a few very senior office holders (1/20)
Firstly, the ‘war’ does genuinely seem to be over. Congrats to Tom Scholar on his reappointment, kudos to the PM & Chancellor for a wise decision, and to Simon Case for whatever he’s done to bring these pointless hostilities to an end at such an important time (2/20)
But it’s worth asking: what has this latest attempt, accompanied as it has been by ferocious (if mostly anonymously briefed) rhetoric, actually involved?

The answer is, by historical standards, virtually nothing at all. There have been two discernible strands of activity (3/20)
Read 20 tweets

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