When it comes to technology and security, politicians are caught between a dream and a nightmareby Tom Chatfield / January 17, 2015 / Leave a comment
Yesterday’s headlines give a pretty good idea of what a successful surveillance strategy looks like: “Two dead in Belgium as police foil ‘grand scale’ terrorist plot”, “Belgium Thwarts Terror Plot.” When information is accurate, timely and actionable, it can and does save lives.
Good news around terrorism is rare. Most prevention success stories can’t be boasted about; the worst possible news, as in the case of the Paris attacks, blots out all other events while begging the most painful of questions: what might have prevented this from happening—and why wasn’t it done?
In this sense, the Prime Minister deserves some sympathy for his comments on 12th January that “in extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call, to mobile communications… The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not. The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.” In every practical sense, however, the argument is alarming and ill-conceived.