The Stack Archive

UK National Crime Agency chief joins governments’ call for reduced online privacy

Tue 7 Oct 2014

In the wake of vocal criticism by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General of the increased personal security offered by new technologies such as Tor and client-side encryption, the UK’s National Crime Agency chief Keith Bristow has said in an interview to The Guardian that Britons will need to accept reduced digital freedoms in order to continue to be protected by law enforcement agencies.

Much as the statement is inflaming comment threads at the moment – and Benjamin Franklin always makes an early entry in these exchanges – Bristow, who has headed up ‘Britain’s FBI’ since it launched last year, shares the conciliatory and imprecating tone that has come to characterise governmental reaction to the new security features in iOs8, and, soon, in Android mobile phones.

“If we seek to operate outside of what the public consent to” Bristow said “that, for me, by definition, is not policing by consent …the consent is expressed through legislation.”

Bristow stated that it is necessary to “win the public consent to losing some freedoms in return for greater security.”

Last week Theresa May urged the Conservative-led government to push forward with the oft-thwarted Draft Communications Data Bill. Known colloquially as ‘The Snooper’s charter’, the new legislation, proposed in 2012 but blocked last year by protests from the Liberal Democrat faction of the coalition, would require ISPs, mobile phone companies and other data carriers to retain content-free records of the internet browsing and social media activity of their users.

Bristow’s tone of negotiation comes to the fore in The Guardian’s excerpted interview when he confesses to his own concerns about loss of privacy, and acknowledges that there is a “tension and a balance” to be considered in the public security landscape. “The Snowden revelations have damaged public confidence in our ability, whether it’s law enforcement or the intelligence agencies, to access and use data in an appropriate and proportionate way.”


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