Tories to limit use of mathematics in amendment to anti-terrorism bill

By , May 9, 2015 3:45 am

Following on from the Conservative Party’s plans to take immediate advantage of their new majority in the House of Commons by pushing through surveillance powers known as the Snoopers’ Charter, the party has announced an amendment to the bill which will make it illegal for anyone to use any form of mathematics not on a government-approved whitelist.

In yesterday’s announcement, Theresa May, who as home secretary led the original legislation, said: “We were disappointed to receive feedback on the original Communications Data Bill from technology experts and civil liberties campaigners who considered it more important for citizens to be able to continue using encryption for non-essential activities like secure online shopping / banking, than for the police to be able to monitor the communications of anyone who could be a terrorist. The country was extremely healthy under John Major’s government in the 1990s before online services such as e-commerce and e-banking even existed, so it is a trivial and easily justifiable sacrifice to replace the freedom to use those services securely with laws creating a powerful deterrent for terrorists, who would face stiff fines and potentially even jail-time if found guilty of using encrypted communications.”

“However, during consultations with the financial sector in the City, we have been advised that banning use of all encryption software would prevent large UK corporations from trading on global markets.”

She continued, “We also discovered that communication can be encrypted non-electronically, for example using simple mathematical techniques on pen and paper, and we cannot in good conscience allow potential terrorists to use these techniques without fear of being arrested and detained for an arbitrary amount of questioning.”

“Therefore the only logical course of action is to amend the bill to ban use of all types of mathematics for which permission has not been explicitly granted by the government. A whitelist will be drafted for the upcoming debate on the bill. In order to avoid any impact on the economy, a special security exception will be made to allow financial institutions to continue using mathematics as before. For ordinary citizens, basic arithmetic will of course be allowed, although in financial contexts some restrictions will be imposed; for example, in the interests of national security, it will be forbidden for the general public to perform calculations relating to any personal expenditure of MPs or peers in the House of Lords.”

David Cameron issued a separate statement reinforcing the Home Secretary’s announcement and also rejecting an opposing argument which highlighted that whilst every year in the UK around 2,000 people die from traffic accidents and 65,000 from heart disease, in the past 5 years there have only been 2 people killed through terrorism. “Terrorism is a rising global threat, and must be countered at any cost, even at the expense of civil liberties and personal privacy”, the newly re-elected Prime Minster said. “If you have nothing to hide, why would you need privacy anyway? Everybody already shares everything on Facebook anyway.”

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3 Responses to “Tories to limit use of mathematics in amendment to anti-terrorism bill”

  1. francesc says:

    good post Adam.

    The Theresa May quote is unreal.

    “we cannot in good conscience allow potential terrorists to use these techniques without fear of being arrested and detained for an arbitrary amount of questioning.”

    It’s not enough to aim terrorism, a crime that anyone can be charged with without proof, she talks about potential terrorists, which includes anyone, maybe with the exception of whitelisters.

    This is how I read her quote:

    “it is our moral duty to make sure everyone who uses any kind of encryption fears being detained and arrested and questioned indefinately”

    • Adam says:

      Hey Cesc 🙂 Yes, her quote is unreal … quite literally, because I made it up, as I did the rest of the post 😉 Unfortunately the first link is totally genuine. If you believed my story then I think I achieved my goal, which was to prove that what the government is actually doing is so insane that it’s hard to distinguish from fictional insanity.

  2. Mike Gale says:

    You should write a piece about the recent Nobel Privacy Prize nomination. Cheney, Addington, Clapper, Hayden and Obama are up for a joint award. The first time so many have been included on one “ticket”. The committee is currently checking that the candidates are able to prevent any criticism propagating over the Internet.

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