18 January 2015

There’s a fine line between protecting people and invading their right to privacy, and nowhere is that more apparent than when it comes to online communication.

The Prime Minister’s recent comments about new online data laws are concerning for this reason, but there’s also another, arguably more worrying problem in his implied suggestion of banning – or getting some kind of back door into – encryption.

It seems like David Cameron has misunderstood how online communications work.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot of backlash to his suggestion because, technically speaking, it’s practically impossible – and even if it weren’t, we wouldn’t want it.

I think we need to be asking some serious questions here; questions like:

How well informed are the people in charge of making policies? Do we have enough tech-savvy politicians? How do we strike the right balance between liberty and security?

In my opinion, it’s so important that we have a government that understands technology.

I know many of our tech team get increasingly frustrated when they hear politicians suggesting unworkable proposals in response to problems posed or facilitated by the internet. This isn’t the first time Cameron has got it wrong, either. In 2013, he suggested that filtering sites at the ISP level would help to keep our children safe from pornography or other explicit content when using the web. Unfortunately, there are several problems with this, as plenty of tech-savvy people pointed out at the time.

In fact, I’m willing to bet there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people across the country who are more computer literate than the politicians making the suggestions. What must they think, watching the people leading our country as they get technology so wrong?

It has happened plenty of times, with Boris Johnson’s comments about not knowing how to download an app being another example of many.

We have worked hard to be a pioneering nation at the forefront of the internet. Suggestions that damage the fabric of the internet, and all transactions and fundamental security, demonstrate a disconnect between Cameron’s advisors and the online world.

If you banned encryption, it would not stop people from using it. It would just stop the honest people from using it, making transactions and doing business online unworkable and insecure.

Yet surely, with more collaboration between technology experts and the Government, we could stop these gaffs from happening and get politicians more in touch with the things that matter to the public, including the next generation of voters. If Britain is going to be taken seriously as an innovative digital nation, we have to make sure its ambassadors are clued up about technology and how it works.

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