Defending encryption doesn’t mean opposing targeted surveillance

Gigaom

David Omand, the former head of British spy agency GCHQ, has made an extraordinary threat. Speaking earlier this week, he said that if companies such as Apple and Google don’t abandon their end-to-end encryption efforts, intelligence services will have to employ more “close access” surveillance on people they suspect of evil deeds.

This means physical observation, or bugging rooms, or hacking into phones and computers. According to Omand, such actions are “more targeted but in terms of intrusion into personal privacy – collateral intrusion into privacy – we are likely to end up in an ethically worse position than we were before.”

No, you’re not. Surreptitiously getting a key to a suspect’s communications is no more ethical than conducting close personal surveillance — but in the big picture, the latter is vastly preferable.

The ethics of spying

Targeted surveillance will always mean “collateral intrusion” into the privacy of people associated with…

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