David Cameron wants power to see your internet history, messages and nude selfies...
The government is moving ahead with plans to ban encrypted messages being sent via services like Whatsapp, Snapchat and iMessage.
Until now, the police and secret services (Picture Bond. Now think of the opposite of Bond, hunched over a computer looking over endless phone bills.) have been able to request and have access to your meta-data when you send these kinds of messages. Meta-data is information about who you’ve emailed (or Whattsapped, Snapchatted etc) and when. They now plan to ban encryption so that they will be able to see the content of your messages as well.
Home Secretary Theresa May has warned the ominously titled "Investigatory Powers Bill" could be passed this Autumn. The bill would ban messaging services that use encrypted messages, such as Whatsapp, Snapchat and iMessenger, and give government access to the contents of nearly all messages sent via the internet, if they'd like to look at it.
Currently services like Whatsapp, Snapchat and iMessenger allow you to send messages via encryption. You send a message (lets assume this is a photograph of your junk) it gets scrambled on your end and sent through the air in a coded form. On the other end the person you're sending it to (lets assume it's footballer Ashley Cole - it usually is) receives that message in scrambled form, but they also have the key to unscrambling the message. A key which no-one else has. The Conservatives want to introduce a bill to stop all messages being encrypted, meaning that your messages (and, let's face it, dick pics) travel the whole way through the sky unscrambled to the receiver's phone. This means that at any point the government (or potentially hackers) could intercept your message as it flies through the air and see exactly what you sent.
Previously the government could only see that I had sent a picture to Ashley Cole and that he received the 1GB file (sorry to brag about the file size of my penis photograph) but they had no way of knowing what the photograph was of because they didn't have the key to unlocking it. If the new law is passed, the government will be able to see the contents of your messages as well as the meta-data, because the message wasn't coded in the first place: there was nothing to unlock.
It's the difference between the government knowing that you're wearing trousers, and knowing precisely what the contents of your trousers looks like.
Are they interested in looking at your junk?
Whilst you may not think that governments aren't interested in personal messages or the photos you share with others, this isn't entirely true. In America the NSA have been able to access these kinds of photos, and employees regularly shared any explicit photos they came across, seeing it as a "fringe benefit" of the job. The way some jobs come with 20% discounts for purchases in store, working at the NSA meant you could view and share naked photographs of people without their prior knowledge or consent.
What they're mainly interested in though is detecting and preventing terrorist attacks, though critics have suggested that terrorists and criminals will likely still use encryption services after they become illegal - they are criminals after all - and the government will be in the exact same position they were in before. They'll have the metadata of criminals using illegal encrypted messages but won't be able to access theim, but they'll now also have a massive pile of dick pics nearby providing a constant distraction.
Whatsapp and Snapchat ban
David Cameron has warned that he will ban any services that send messages via encryption. This includes Whatsapp, Snapchat and iMessage, if they refuse to remove encryption. If they don't comply that means that their services will be outlawed in the UK.
In essence the government wants to be able to read any messages they deem it necessary to look at. It is a counter terror measure, even though security services think it is a terrible idea and may even lead to more security risks such as those posed by cyber terrorists, who will now have no problem at all intercepting private messages and using them to their own advantage.
But will they actually ban these things?
Probably not. In all likelihood Whatsapp and Snapchat and iMessenger will remove encryption from their apps in order to continue running in the UK. As long as you don't mind using these services unencrypted, you will still be able to use them. It's also possible the government will be defeated when this is put to a vote, though there are concerns that MPs don't understand the issues enough to vote in an informed way on the issue.
Put even more simply
The government used to be able to tell when you had sent nude pictures. If the bill passes, they'll be able to gawp at them. And any service that doesn't want to let them do this will be made illegal.
In other government changes, check out what the latest student loan changes mean for you...