Politicians may be about to use the horrific attacks in to , activists have warned.
The desire to stop another attack happening again using technological approaches and surveillance could actually lead to empowering criminals and terrorists, the Open Rights Group has warned.
Drawing attention to apparent attempts to force companies to weaken their encryption and security so that they can read everyone’s messages, the organisation’s executive director Jim Killock has warned against relying on security measures.
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“We hope that law enforcement and intelligence agencies will help to bring those involved in these attacks to justice and we support their work combating terrorism,” Mr Killock wrote in a statement that expressed sympathy with the victims. “We believe that these agencies need powers of surveillance to do this.
“However, we also believe that there must be limits to these powers in order to preserve the democratic values of freedom and liberty – the same values that terrorists want to undermine. This is the central challenge of the moment, in our view.”
The warning came amid suggestions from the government that it could .
Mr Killock noted that the attack happened in the middle of the election and so any response is going to be complicated.
“The political response to this attack is complicated by the fact that it is has taken place in the middle of an election,” Mr Killock wrote. “Campaigning has been put on hold but politicians cannot help but be aware that their response will affect the outcome of the election – and this could see policies that exploit public fears.”
He stressed that any attempt to avoid future attacks with intrusive surveillance and the weakening of personal security is not only unlikely to help but will probably empower the exact people it is trying to stop. He noted that mass surveillance tends to give too much information than intelligence agencies can deal with – and as such it is easy for terrorists to change their behaviour and go undetected.
“This does not mean we should give up, nor does it mean that technology can play no role in surveillance,” he wrote. “It does however mean that we should not assume that claims of resources and powers will necessarily result in security.”
And by weakening encryption using the powers laid down in the Investigatory Powers Act, the government could help out people who are planning to attack the country, he warned. Mr Killock drew particular attention to the government’s plans to start using technological capability notices – orders that can force companies to weaken their encryption so that messages can be read more easily, by anyone including hackers.
“ORG is concerned that the Government’s use of investigatory powers to ostensibly keep us safe can themselves be exploited by criminals and terrorists,” he wrote.