back to article Scanning phones to detect child abuse evidence is harmful, 'magical' thinking

Laws in the UK and Europe have been proposed that would give authorities the power to undermine strong end-to-end encryption in the pursuit of, in their minds, justice. If adopted, these rules would – according to a top British computer security expert – authorize the reading and analysis of people's previously private …

  1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Never mind the fact that, even if their detection technology had a 100% true positive rate and a 0% false, all you'll catch is low-hanging fruit: The idiots who browse CP on an iPhone in Starbucks and the people who stumbled across things by accident (or were sent them by malicious parties). This won't touch anyone who has made even the smallest effort to harden their devices.

    The great minds behind this seem to believe that, if they just write enough rules and implement enough technology to enforce those rules, everyone will simply behave. They don't understand the technocratic nightmare they're creating. Magical thinking indeed.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Plus it would mean 90% of your CPU power would be churning away running computationally hard data scanning.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Nevermind the technology

      How could they possibly enforce it? How could they make Telegram bend to their will, for instance? Telegram has no business presence in the UK, so other than by blocking IPs (and playing whack a mole with new ones they keep adding) they'll never get them to obey that law.

      It would be interesting to see how companies like Apple, Google and Facebook would respond. They have business presence in the UK from stores or advertising sales, but they don't have to. The UK isn't the world power they used to be, and they don't have anywhere near the scale of the EU, so they might pass this law and find everyone either ignores them or pulls up stakes.

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Nevermind the technology

        Instead of Telegram and other applications, you should be thinking in terms of phone and, more importantly, chip manufacturers.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Nevermind the technology

          Chip manufacturers? If they want to bring back the "Clipper chip" idea good luck to them. Apps can always encrypt via software, no chip or OS can prevent that. The only way you can prevent an app doing its own unbreakable encryption is to ban it from the platform.

          And the next step then is to host the communication on a website, and they would have to bug ALL traffic that cross the web browsers to get at it then.

      2. Dr Dan Holdsworth
        FAIL

        Re: Nevermind the technology

        We already know how phone manufacturers will behave when confronted with a government trying to make them install intrusive bloatware. We saw what happened when Apple and Google were confronted with the UK government's take on a covid-19 scanning app to be installed with administrator privs on all phones.

        Politely, the answer was "no".

        Phone manufacturers are locked in a battle with each other to produce smooth, powerful and lovely phones which also don't need charging every hour. Stick a process doing computationally difficult things on a phone and you get a handwarmer that needs charging a lot and which isn't any fun to use. The best-case scenario here is that the manufacturers comply and "tolerate" web pages detailing how to jailbreak their phones and remove the bloatware.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

    The frog has been boiling very slowly over the last couple of decades, if people in the 1960s knew about the surveillance and thought-policing going on in the 2020s, people would be shocked, in outrage. There would be mass protests and even riots on the streets.

    Trying to police what media people are reading or looking at is an absolute Orwellian nightmare. It is not very far from thought control. And there are absolutely no excuses for prosecuting people who read or look at information. It is a manifestation of moral zealots who are on the OCD spectrum, trying to impose their own thought suppression and control, on the general public. Using the age old-excuse of"protecting women/children".

    I think we have a fundamental natural, human right, to be able to receive any information we want to, period. And that the government has no right to take that away from us. It has already expanded from forbidden images into forbidden text, such as information that could be "useful to terrorists", another moral panic. Only distribution of such material should be ever be prosecuted.

    They could use exactly the same excuses, i.e. that policing people's thoughts would protect children from harm. And that thinking the wrong things could possibly lead to abuse. Therefore we must all be under surveillance for undesirable thoughts.

    Instead, go after those people who are actually creating and distributing these images.

    The problem comes down to the two-way, fully traceable nature of the Internet itself. None of this would be possible with radio or satellite TV, because only the Internet allows the state to determine what you are reading or watching... They can't round up people and imprison them for watching/listening to "forbidden" radio or TV stations, because even if it was illegal, it would be practically unenforceable due to the laws of physics.

    Perhaps it's time for a new medium, in a few decades from now, something using quantum communications, that does not have this "easy surveillance" property...

    There is already research being done into "quantum anonymous networks"....

    https://researchoutreach.org/articles/securing-communication-quantum-anonymous-networks

    And real abuse images could still be detected from photos of the victims, using facial recognition or some similar techniques.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      They did - or at least the potential was obvious to many. There are numerous instances of this understanding (TV shows e.g. Star Trek: "the ultimate computer", "the changeling", "the return of the Archons"; the outer limits: "O.B.I.T."; short stories e.g. E.M. Forster's "the machine stops", C. Smith's "Alpha Ralpha boulevard").

      It's been obvious to thinking folks for ages that automata can be great servants but terrible masters, and that in the hands of ideologues any technology can be applied to inappropriate ends. The saddest state is when the ideologues gain positions of power that allow them to apply the technologies without regard for the wider implications.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        Be seeing you.

        1. myhandler

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          Thank you Number 6, reference noted.

        2. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          I wonder if GCHQ offices look like this?

          == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

    2. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      Instead, go after those people who are actually creating and distributing these images.

      Exactly. In fact, the are volunteer organizations doing the work of infiltrating internet CP groups. They already find far more images and leads than can be processed to conviction. Processed to conviction mean to trace the IP addresses, the follow through with warrants and arrests and court cases. THAT is the bottleneck. The evidence for that is well documented in "The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?" [NYT, 2019].

      What is interesting is that that NYT article, despite offering explicit evidence that the bottleneck is hiring the experts and detectives to follow up the overflowing plenty of leads, arrives at the dumbfounding conclusion that universal device/communication surveillance and encryption backdoors are warranted, not budgeting to solve that bottleneck.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        Computers are literal magic to a lot of these people - even to people who have spent their entire lives embedded in the technology sphere, who think that computers can solve all the problems of the world because they've made them solve some of the problems they personally encountered.

        Hiring people is hard. Waving a magical wrongthink detector box at the problem is far easier.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        Some of those "volunteer organisations" are, sadly, very much part of the problem. "Paedo-hunters" who ignore the rule of law, and go out and entrap and confront perpetrators, and in the process stomp all over due process, evidential integrity, and chain of custody. When it then comes to the police and courts trying to get a successful prosecution against the perps, they get off, because their rights haven't been respected, and the police can't demonstrate that evidence hasn't been planted.

        It might make for a dramatic youtube video when the "hero" lures a sexual predator into a meeting and confronts them, but it doesn't serve the goals of justice. Most of the "evidence" they gather may well be genuine, but because there is no chain of custody (it often can't be proven to not have been faked, because it has not been properly documented), it is utterly inadmissible in court. You are left with nothing more than word-of-mouth testimony from the "hunter," and any defence barrister worth their salt is going to point out that there is a vested interest in tracking down and "finding" a perpetrator whether or not they are guilty.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          ...I'll just add to that, that I reckon most "volunteers" here have no interest in seeing things through to court. If you've ever had any sort of contact with the court system, you'll know what an absolute ball-ache it is. If you go after a paedophile, and by some chance, manage to gather enough evidence for it to be taken seriously by the police, and for the case to get a positive charging decision by the CPS (the bar here is a for it to have a realistic prospect of conviction based on the evidence), the next thing that is going to happen is for you to give your "inconvenient dates" for the next 18 months or so, whilst they try to arrange a court date where all the witnesses, barristers, police, etc. etc. can attend.

          Once a date is agreed, you will have to make yourself available, probably for several days.

          You will probably have to travel (travel costs reimbursed, and lost earnings up to only a certain level). Any work commitments you might have, are moot to the court, if you don't want to go to court, you will be summonsed, even as a witness. Depending on where the crime was committed, you could be travelling across the country to spend several days in a Travelodge in the arse-end of nowhere. Of course, you won't be able to while away any free time talking about the case to anyone. That is explicitly forbidden. You are going to be very bored.

          The odds are that the trial will last several days. You might not be needed for all of those days, but you probably won't know which days until the trial starts, so you'll probably have to make yourself available for a whole week. Possibly more.

          Then there's a fair chance, with the backlog and overwork in the courts system, that the trial will get adjourned due to sickness, other trials overrunning, or unavailability of other witnesses, and you'll have to go through the whole process again, possibly multiple times. At some point, the whole thing might fall through and the CPS will make a choice to drop the case.

          I know all of this, because I know someone whose job it is to try and coordinate witnesses for trials, and get to hear exactly how much of a pain in the arse the whole system is, largely due to chronic underfunding.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

            > Then there's a fair chance...

            And from personal experience there is a fair chance that you'll turn up at the court on the appointed day only to find that the CPS have not in fact done any work to prepare the case and the judge will have no option but to dismiss the case

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

              The "C" in "CPS" is indeed well known to stand for "Clown".

              1. Antipode77

                Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

                Blame the clowns holding the purse strings.

                Courts are a public service like the NHS is.

                We all know the terrible state the NHS is in due to a certain party strangling the stream of money, that provides for it in the last decade.

                Same applies to Police and Courts in the UK.

        2. Helcat

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          How often to these 'volunteers' uncover other 'volunteers' doing the same thing they are: Hunting the Paedo? How much traffic do you think is generated by all these different, uncoordinated groups searching for the same thing? How many actual Paedo's get away with what they're doing by claiming they're hunting Paedos, not the pictures?

          Then there's the obvious question of what the response will be if this proposal does go through? Aside from authorities immediately trying to abuse it to spy on parents to see what they're saying about the latest school policy/treatment of students etc? (Abuse of anti-terrorist laws comes to mind, here as evidence they will)... They'll start sending out texts, urls and images to people at random to create Chaff: Keep the investigators tied up investigating innocent people and giving the real paedo's a level of deniability if they're caught.

          Meanwhile, it's the regular person who's getting spied on and their data slurped, breaching any resemblance of privacy. And that data will be retained 'just in case'...

      3. Peter D

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        I'm very computer savvy but I wouldn't even know how to obtain such content so it's good there are organisations trying to stifle it at source. I presume that law enforcement only catch a tiny minority of people in possession of such material so I wonder how big the problem might be.

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      Compared to the 60's, the Internet is a new medium - back then I saw a letter in the International Times from a guy in Birmingham who wanted a radio transmitter to get a pirate show going. I replied to him via the International Times and started seeing all letters delivered to me opened before they arrived - apparently the International Times had been searched by the police. Luckily I had already taken the train to Birmingham, met him at the station and given him one of the transmitters that I had been using.

      Seeing this happen taught me to behave a little better and very quietly for the rest of my life.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        I've been to the STASI museum in Berlin (in the well-preserved STASI headquarters), and seen the production-line of industrial-grade steamers used for opening pretty much everyone's mail. The story is as old as time, only the medium is new.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          And also what is new is the Stasi-like surveillance mentality that has crept up on the (previously) free world. Absolutely, East Germany was terrible, but in the 1980s the United Kingdom were not routinely intercepting everyone's communications, to protect people from "terrorism" or from "pedophiles", both which are really rare compared to the other dangers in life, such as the mundane act of crossing the road. Which happens to be especially dangerous for children.... But no, cars are not banned, and surveillance devices are not installed in every car.... ???? Food for thought there...

          Then the likely real reason then is for control, so the government and other state agents and powerful people (e.g. those self-appointed moral "guardians", i.e. another name for a control freak) can get to control how the population communicate... And the Internet is the perfect platform for automated policing... Especially with AI, when you don't need to employ physical people to do the surveillance.

          Some people actually can have a mental health condition where they crave power and control. Black and white thinking also comes with those conditions too... The Dark Triad personality. And they naturally gravitate towards positions of power, to satisfy their need for dominance over others. I agree, yes, it's history repeating itself again.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

            Even a benign maximum legal speed limiter for cars is a bridge too far, but listening to every voice conversation is A-OK.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          > and seen the production-line of industrial-grade steamers used for opening pretty much everyone's mail

          Back in about 1990 I was asked to put together a design for a system for a government somewhere in the world (not saying where) who wanted to tap every single phone line in country to intercept and basically copy all faxes.

          Would have been very profitable, that was going to be a lot of hardware.

          But even I'm not that unscrupulous and so will likely die poor or at least poorer than I could have been.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

            "Would have been very profitable, that was going to be a lot of hardware."

            Towards the end, nearly everything showing up on my fax machine was spam. I shifted to using an old computer and a fax modem instead of something that printed everything out. It also meant I could use the laser printer I already had rather than buying a laser fax machine and yet another set of spare toner cartridges.

    4. Smeagolberg

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      With you on some points, but...

      "I think we have a fundamental natural, human right, to be able to receive any information we want to, period."

      Would that view hold if receiving certain information was dependent on actual harm to someone else?

      E.g. (thought experiment...) What if you wanted to receive video information showing someone's response as they were being tortured? Should you have a "fundamental natural, human right to receive it|"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        I think as long as I am not provoking the torture. So if I am not inciting them directly to torture someone, yes, as abhorrent as it may sound?

        If it's entirely passive reception, without any form of transmission or HTTP request made, e.g. over the radio or satellite, then yes, absolutely.

        Same as if someone was being tortured in Ukraine by russian soldiers for example, and you look out of the window to watch it. No harm done there by watching it, period, especially if you can't be seen by the soldiers. And it may sound absolutely disgraceful, but there is nothing fundamentally morally wrong by watching the war crime. By watching it passively from a distance, you are not participating in the crime itself. If you encourage them, then that's a completely different story.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          And I think that if the soldiers did the torture, or made it worse, because they knew people would witness it by looking out of the windows, i.e. that there was "demand" or an "audience" for it, and we tried banning looking out of the window to watch people being tortured, then I still think it would be wrong to ban looking....

          It's kind of common sense, that you cannot ban something passive and trivial such as looking out of the window to watch the war crime. It is prosecuting trifles in that case. Therefore it's only moral to prosecute those who incite or carry out such abhorrent acts as torture - there must be some involvement other than passive watching, to be found guilty. And I equate browsing the Web with looking out of the window.

          So I believe that punishing looking really comes close to tying to prosecute a specific state of mind and thus control thought. Regardless, it is still an attempt to exert excessive control over people, it is totalitarian.

          Alcohol causes far more harm to children, because of drunken abusive parents, but we realise we cannot ban alcohol, look what happened with Prohibition. We just cannot exert this level of control over people, it is totalitarian to do that. Some risk and danger must be accepted in society, otherwise we are trading liberty for safety and instead we will be in harms way from overzealous moral policing. So to the ultimate conclusion, we will replace danger from pedophiles with danger from the state instead.

          Anyway, that's my preliminary opinion, I'll think more deeply about it later...

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

            And I think that if the soldiers did the torture, or made it worse, because they knew people would witness it by looking out of the windows, i.e. that there was "demand" or an "audience" for it, and we tried banning looking out of the window to watch people being tortured, then I still think it would be wrong to ban looking....

            Banning it would certainly be problematic – and there are arguably equivalent bans to certain types of "speech reception" in some jurisdictions, so this isn't an entirely theoretical question.

            But a more interesting one, in my view, is the ethical ramifications of receiving that information. You might (arguably) have a right to it, but it might still carry a moral burden. Even passively observing an evil act could itself be an evil act. This issue has been posed, and in some cases explored, by any number of artists and philosophers. A couple of off-the-cuff examples are David Wong's Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits (quite a good novel) and the 2020 film Spree (which I haven't seen).

            Certainly it's not novel to suggest that there are occasions when we should accept that a wrong is being done, but that those of us outside the legal response to it have no need to know the details, and we are morally obligated to turn away.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

              Yes, it might be immoral, but should it be illegal? There are many things that are immoral but are not illegal.

              For the hypothetical situation I mentioned, you could say we have a moral imperative to view the torture, so that we are fully informed about what is going on and how barbaric the russian government is, so that we would be motivated to protest against what is going on. By exposing ourselves to it and not hiding away from what is unpleasant, we become better informed people, who are more likely to try and fight against the injustice in the world. Outrage is the antidote to complacency.

              Again by saying it's "immoral" to view something that is being broadcast or in your field of vision, it comes down to trying to control what people are thinking. Basically saying that you are not allowed to think a certain thought that arises from viewing it. It is literally thought control.

        2. MrReynolds2U

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          Passivity isn't a defense when the welfare of a person or group of people is at stake.

          "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"

          - Edmund Burke

          1. stiine Silver badge

            Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

            Are people bulletproof and bayonetteproof? If not, your response the the example given was ignorant.

    5. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      Trying to police what media people are reading or looking at is an absolute Orwellian nightmare.

      You've misspelled dream. D-R-E-A-M, not nightmare.

      You're welcome!

    6. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      The frog has been boiling very slowly over the last couple of decades, if people in the 1960s knew about the surveillance and thought-policing going on in the 2020s, people would be shocked, in outrage. There would be mass protests and even riots on the streets.

      I'm not sure they would. We have a long history of censorship and government interference in free speech.

      It was only 1968 when censorship-by-licensing ended for plays in the UK. Until then, you could not (legally) stage a production without a license from the Lord Chamberlain.

      The Ministry of Information had only been disbanded in 1945. And the 1960 trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover was fresh in people's minds.

      The difference was, most people didn't have the equivalent of a printing press in their pocket. They couldn't broadcast their thoughts to millions except by writing to a newspaper (and making it onto the Editor's letters page), or by going to print - at significant expense if they didn't have a backer.

      Mail could also be opened - but of course examining physical mail en masse does not scale. It had to be targetted, which kept them somewhat on-task through sheer practicality (though didn't prevent political blackmail or rooting through someone's correspondence for other illicit purposes).

      Now people can distribute data at scale - but by the same token, that material can be examined at scale.

      I'm not sure people would be shocked that such surveillance is taking place, though perhaps they would by the scale. But clearly we need to draw a line on what constitutes legitimate inquiry for the authorities and where unlawful dragnetting/fishing begins (technically, we already have. But GCHQ seem to just ignore that and carry on until they get caught, at which point they get a slap on the wrist, promise that it's all closed down, and then carry on with their new, "totally unrelated" programme until that gets outed).

      Who watches the watchmen? It seems like there's a significant lack of accountability within our security services, alongside the magic-thinking at all levels that children can somehow be protected with some code, rather than good old-fashioned investigatory and undercover work by Police to gather evidence and intent which gets you past the basic "possession" charges (someone sent them to me unsolicited, prove otherwise) onto heftier charges for production and distribution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        I was mostly concerned with reception, the main media we had back then were radio, television, books and magazines, all of which could be received anonymously and/or paid for with cash. There was no systemic record of what you were reading as there is today. You could even go to the library and read books on explosives and there was no hidden spy watching you read it... That was before CCTV cameras.... (And that was even legal too back then, God, what has happened). Nowadays nearly everything we do creates automated records, that are easily extracted, monitored and processed, unlike cash or forensic evidence, e.g. fingerprints on books. This enables mass automated, very low cost policing at scale, something not possible in the past, where paid informants were very expensive to deploy, comparatively speaking. And the spooks today are completely invisible, in the real world you have a chance of noticing their suspicious activity, e.g. that an unknown vehicle was following you.

        Also the ease of automated policing, encourages more thought-crime style laws, because nobody will be able to say "it's difficult to enforce". You can thank the Internet for that.

        Still you could go to that play you mentioned, and there would be no record, you would likely have paid cash.

        Yes, certainly they didn't have the ability to spread information as widely as now, but the restrictions and Orwellian stuff only applied to publishers, not the average person who consumes information. Thus publishers had to be careful, and the general public could just go about their lives, with freedom? Or maybe I'm wrong there?

        By the way, I am amazed at shortwave radio reception, it literally is one of the few things you can do that isn't being spied on. Some of the pirates on the 11m band are really interesting... The "organic", anarchic activity going on on that band is so refreshing to see, in such a controlled and monitored age we live in. Satellite TV is also interesting, but no real pirate activity goes on there.

      2. Infused

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        The UK has hardly been a bastion of freedom. The Parliamentarians regularly opened letters under Cromwell to search for plots in coded language. The British government took fright during the French Revolution period & regularly prosecuted people for seditious libel. In the 19th century knowledge taxes (e.g. taxes on paper) prevented the widespread publication of cheap radical newspapers to a working class readership. During both world wars censorship of newspapers & letters was enforced. I'm sure I remember reading during WWII doctors reported conversations they had with their patients so the government could gauge the mood of the nation.

        1. mattaw2001

          Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

          I believe you deserve more recognition for your thoughtful post. A knowledge of history is essential to understanding the present, and the idea there ever was a time of uncensored, private access to information or communications is essentially a fantasy.

          Complete privacy and uncensored access may not be what the majority of people actually want, and we live in a democracy. Balancing rights and freedoms is what society is all about - there are no absolutes.

          For example, right now I am controlling my children's access to the Internet, while being undermined by the tech companies I do not want uncensored access or private communications for my seven and eleven year olds. I also believe most people, if asked, would be not only be OK with their online activities being looked over for criminal activities or terrorism but surprised it wasn't already happening.

          I am pretty much OK with it, although paging through millions of lines of my eBay searches for a cheap multi-meter might be considered a health hazard...

    7. iron Silver badge

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      People from the 1960s aare the ones who got us where we are today - Jobs, Woz, Gates, Allen, Balmer, McNealy, etc.

      So much for peace and free love, the hippy generation screwed us.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      In some ways the idea of one way communication: radio, TV, newspapers & books is appealing because you're not likely to be surveilled by the government doing it. But I also think the problem governments see is the reach of the internet. I think it is inevitable that the internet will become less free. Even if the UK's Online Safety Bill doesn't pass, something else will replace it as political support is near universal for regulation. I don't think online freedom will even survive in the US. Just one of the numerous laws being proposed there has to pass or the Supreme Court rule against Section 230 & it's game over.

    9. Bbuckley

      Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

      Who are the downvoters? The Pigs from Animal Farm maybe?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If people in the 1960s knew what computers and the Internet did to our freedom

        Or it could just be those who understand superheterodyne detectors.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    we’ve found no reason why client side scanning techniques cannot be implemented

    Apart from the slight issue of persuading people to allow the software to run?

    "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear!"

    "If I have nothing to hide then why are you spying on me?"

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: we’ve found no reason why client side scanning techniques cannot be implemented

      > "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear!"

      Which makes about as much sense as saying that you shouldn't be mad if someone points a gun at you, as long as he doesn't shoot.

      A core principle of democracy ought to be that positions of power need to be well justified, not just exertion of power. By grabbing someone's data, you enter a position of power over him. This is already problematic, regardless of whether you do something with that data or not.

      Basically, being denied hiding is in itself something we should fear.

      To extend the metaphor... in order for me to get shot, a gun needs to be carried in my presence, drawn, have its safety removed, pointed, and triggered. Every additional step that gets taken in that sequence is an additional, escalating threat. It is not true that no such step is a threat until the last one.

      Similarly, every single step that facilitates an abuse of power is in itself a threat. Sometimes they are needed, but every such step needs individually strong justification, before it can be allowed to happen. And simply "because I might later need to do the subsequent steps" is a terrible, terrible justification.

  4. RyokuMas
    Devil

    Sponsorship...

    What's the betting that Prof. Ross Anderson's work is being bankrolled by Google, Facebook and their ilk?

    1. The Mole

      Re: Sponsorship...

      Low to zero. He's not exactly been favourable to them in the past, and his research focus over the years make it clear about his views: https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/

      Besides Google, Facebook and their ilk probably wouldn't be that bothered by doing mandatory client side scanning as that gives them the slippery slope to include additional data into targeted advertising

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Sponsorship...

      It doesn't matter if they were, which they're not. They might even be interested in someone else doing the censorship as it means they wouldn't have to.

    3. Yes Me Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Sponsorship...

      Anyone who knows Ross knows that is not the case.

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Sponsorship...

      Remain silent and be thought a fool, or post a comment and leave no doubt, eh?

      It would have taken, what, a minute to learn a bit about Ross Anderson's background. Honestly, I'm a bit suspicious of anyone working in IT who's not familiar with his name; it suggests you pay too little attention to IT security.

      (That doesn't mean you have to agree with him, on this or any other matter, of course. I know security experts who greet much of the output of Anderson and the Cambridge Security Group with a bit of eye-rolling, though I myself think they're generally on the right track. But you should know who he is, just like Spaf and Rivest and other major figures.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Every bit of research in the field and every statistic on prosecutions shows that there is far less of this abuse happening now than ever before, and none of this fishing ever winds up showing a meaningful need for it. There's a reason why child abuse is the go-to for both the groups that want to breach security measures just for the sake of doing so and the groups that have delusional conspiracy theories about satanic cults draining children of their fluids to stay young.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

      The fact that children are better connected than ever before in history probably makes it much harder for abusers to get away with it... Children are always in touch with their friends and have easier ways to report it and seek assistance about it. Support groups on the internet make it easier for victims to realise they are not alone, etc. And not just sexual abuse too, but physical and emotional abuse too.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

        Bingo: if you really want to impact child abuse, make it easier for kids to figure out something is wrong and reach out. It's hard to do that while there are groups that don't want any topic that has anything remotely to do with sex getting discussed within a mile of any kid anywhere, though.

        1. GruntyMcPugh

          Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

          On reaching out,.... once kids know their device is bugged, how likely are they to have open honest conversations about personal matters using it? Their anonymity will be gone, they'll be wary of sharing personal concerns for fear it's all recorded, and it will rob them of a chance to get help. Snooping on kids will be massively damaging, so instead of thinking of the kids, can we actually think of the kids?

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
            Coat

            It would appear that there is way too many people thinking about the kids.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

            Well so much of it comes down to power, a human instinct. Many of these justifications for "protecting children" are just an excuse for authority figures, including parents, to exert their dominance over children. Just as animals have a dominance hierarchy, we people do, which varies on an individual basis. And there's probably a primal drive to do so, which we should be aware of.

            In many cases taking away freedom from older children and teenagers just serves to delay their development of responsibility. The opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. So peoples' development is being stunted. And this has been getting worse since the 1980s moral panics over "stranger danger". No wonder why we have a generation of adults who put "safety" over freedom, who expect to be protected from every risk in society.

            Empowering children to feel in charge of their own life, to a certain degree, and not feel as if they are slaves to the system, is probably one step towards improving their rights....

            We have already made great strides with Feminism (the non-radical type) in the early 20th Century in asserting womens' rights.. And we abolished the very serious problem with racism in the 1950s and 1960s. How about we look at the rights of children now and how terribly they are treated in general by society, almost imprisoned like slaves? With parents wielding near-total power and control over them. Our society's blindness to such a fundamental human rights violation is staggering.

            And I am not one of those social justice types who wants "microaggressions" or other similar things abolished... This is for real, true freedom for everyone.

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

              And we abolished the very serious problem with racism in the 1950s and 1960s.

              Spoken as a true white person.

              FWIW, I'm white too, but I can listen when I hear friends with different skin tones to my own relate tales of the very real and systemic racism that still goes on today. If anything, it’s on the rise again. I think you might be a little premature in using the word "abolished" there.

              1. Cederic Silver badge

                Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

                That's the point though. Racism is on the rise again. My generation were brought up to not be racist, not to treat people differently based on their innate characteristics.

                Now we're lectured to that treating people the same is racist, by people that are themselves racist.

                A bit like child abuse. Never was acceptable, but now people get banned from social interactions for daring to suggest that sexualising children might not be appropriate, and that castrating young boys is wrong.

            2. JohnTill123

              Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

              I suggest that one of the major changes in the 20th century in English-speaking Western countries started post WWII. Up till then, most young people going through school with one parent at home less of a chance of spending many years in post-secondary education, so they would be interacting mostly with adults in their late teens as they learned a "trade" or worked in a business setting. Also they had a high chance of working in the military.

              After WWII, there was a very important creeping change: Young people growing up with two working parents and being encouraged to spend more time in school especially to get higher education for better prospects. These people spent less time in the company of adults in their formative years: They earned how to be adults from EACH OTHER rather than from real adults. This was accelerated in the 1960s with the counterculture culture.

              So when you have youths learning how to be adults from other youths, you build a bigger generation gap and you raise a generation of people who expect to interact with adults the same way they interacted in their formative years: You wind up with cliques and immature behavior in the workplace, and a generation less capable of thinking introspectively or critically. You wind up with "microaggressions" and other mental absurdities.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

                And the pedophile and stranger danger hysteria means that children are even more isolated from adults than ever before... So that's made it even worse.

            3. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

              "Well so much of it comes down to power, a human instinct. Many of these justifications for "protecting children" are just an excuse for authority figures, including parents"

              It IS a parent's job. Even when their kids are older, that only means they've gained in the ability to make even bigger mistakes. They might have a car, can stay out later, go to more parties where anything might be available. I agree that some parents can over do it, but I see that as preferable to all of the cop shows that demonstrate what happens when the parent(s) completely fall down on the job. The kids were never taught about their responsibilities and picked up wrong notions of their rights.

          3. Peter D

            Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

            Snooping on kids is not only damaging for them. Have you ever listened to them chatting? It's absolute torture to adults.

      2. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

        Tell that to hundreds of thousands of white girls across England.

        My cynical view is that there's less sharing of images because the abusers are now sharing victims instead.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

        "The fact that children are better connected than ever before in history probably makes it much harder for abusers to get away with it."

        There are kids being charged with crimes for taking and sharing photos of themselves. The Kardashians walk around half naked all of the time and they have lots of money, fame and cool stuff so their 'fans' just figure they'll get in on it too. It's not so much that there is an identifiable abuser all of the time. It can be society as a whole grooming the kids. Does it make sense to start putting 16 year old girls in the slammer for 'sharing' a photo with their boyfriend. Technically, that's CP and the law is all about the technicalities. It rarely goes the other way. Guys sending out locker room photos don't get their peepee slapped over it. The better approach would be to have parents do a better job with these subjects in advance. If they tell their kids that publishing a certain class of digital image can lead straight to prints made and put up all over school the next day, maybe that would get the other brain cell to wake up.

        The point is that no line is razor sharp and many technical solutions for things that aren't a high percentage thing wind up with lots of dolphins mixed in with the tuna. I'm not advocating for not punishing CP purveyors. Please don't think anything I've written says that.

        Another thing to consider is that CP could be made into an even more powerful weapon. Instead of ransomware, clicking on an email link might plant something on a target's computer. Scanning software would then detect it and turn the person in. Guilty until proven innocent and you were in possession which is a crime whether you say you didn't know it was there or not. Right now it's just accusing somebody of an offense against an underage that will ruin them even if no charges are filed or proven.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

          Yes, you're absolutely right, it smacks of 16th Century witch hunts and it's why I've gotten out of computer networking and Internet technology completely. It's not my career anymore. I absolutely want nothing to do with what is the computer equivalent of the "Ford Pinto". A car that would burn the driver alive if it was rear-ended by another vehicle.

          It is really dangerous to construct a medium such as the Internet with no safeguards to ensure anonymity built in from the beginning... Having everything logged and traceable down to your name and address almost guarantees an Orwellian nightmare, it's not a matter of if, it's when it will happen.

          Yes, there are tools such as Tor, which might actually work, or VPNs which are useless due to Team Cymru. But it's not about those who have the technical knowledge to bypass it, so they can feel safe. And even explore any part of the Internet without fear that they could be prosecuted, should they unintentionally come across such material. Yes, fearing the Thought Police at their door....

          It's about protecting the general public, the 99% of people out there, from this totalitarian menace, who are completely exposed to the mass surveillance. And have nearly no recourse whatsoever against this tyranny.

          > Please don't think anything I've written says that.

          The fact you even have to say that shows what an absolute disgraceful climate we are living in. That you will be suspected, just as a witch was in times gone by, for criticising the witch hunt.

          F*** this stupid Internet nightmare. If I didn't need it for work purposes, I might consider taking a sledgehammer to my router.... Well maybe at some point in the future. That is the level of outrage I feel every time this subject is on the news.

        2. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Much more difficult for abusers to get away with it nowadays

          How do you know that web sites aren't already doing this? Can you imagine a hacker getting write-access to the bbc.com backend and doing nothing but adding an image file that gets downloaded and then only uses a 1x1 pixel part of that imagine as the deplay image.

    2. GruntyMcPugh

      I recall the 'Satanic ritual abuse' panic, it started in the US, then got a foothold over here in the UK, and it bothered me that people gave it any credibility. Especially when children were in more danger from Priests. That said, this is all theatre, how much abuse happens without being recorded or shared online, and isn't prevention more important than detection? Also, once bad guys know they are being eavesdropped, they'll switch tactics. We were taking our shoes off at airpoirts _afrer_ the failed attempt, not before, and checking shoes has not defeated terrorism.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Emotions override rational thought

        Probably relies on a certain segment of society that is prone to being very emotional and get hysterical at the news. Once strong emotions get involved, then any hope for rational thought it gone... Only after people snap out of the emotions, then they realise "what the hell was I believing"?

        It really is like a "mainstream" conspiracy theory, ones that are peddled by the mass media. We can identify conspiracy theories when it comes from fringe groups, but we don't notice it when it comes from the supposedly trusted press and their yellow journalism.

        Trouble is we are very strongly instinctually driven to protect children (and women too). Moral entrpreneurs take advantage of that drive to create moral panics to enhance their power, prestige, fame, money, career, readership, viewers, ad revenue etc. The list just goes on and on. It just makes business and career sense to create hysteria and sensationalism.

        However it does serious harm to so many people, not only those falsely convicted of "moral panic" crimes, but also because parents end up overprotecting their children and that can increase susceptibility to psychiatric disorders later in the childrens' lives.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "and checking shoes has not defeated terrorism."

        It's been a long time since I've been to a commercial airport, but the idiots in charge the last time I flew commecially never thought it might be a reasonable idea to have seating just before and just past the strip search area so people can remove and put back on their shoes.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Crime stats also show that the vast majority of child abuse happens within the family home.

      Introduction of the proposed domestic violence register would probably go a fair way to help reduce the amount of abuse which still does go on (and sadly is more common than you might like to think).

      At the end of the day, someone who is going to violently or coercively abuse their partner is also more likely to do the same to a child. Addressing toxic masculinity, and just a culture of generally promoting aggression, as a societal ill is therefore much more of a priority than trying to track down every last individual who shares images of abuse, abhorrent though that is.

      To get an idea of the scope of the problem, two women are murdered by their partners every week in the UK (and 30 men every year).

      1. Evil Scot Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        If not the family home the family unit.

        The damage done was in the creation of those images, not the distribution. And so far the impact can be felt 40 years and counting later.

        It also assumes that these images are or will be stored "in the clear".

        Icon. That is for my grandfather.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          There is an argument that, in possessing such images, the possessor is creating a "market" for their creation, and is thus also responsible for the abuse, in the same way that wanting to buy a lampshade made of human skin would necessitate the procurement of such skin.

          Personally, I would subscribe to such an argument. Records or products of illegal actions should, themselves, be illegal goods.

          Where the line is less clear, is where (thanks to one T. May), images that are entirely synthetic (such as cartoon images) depicting such abuse are also illegal to possess. I would suggest that psychiatric treatment, rather than criminalisation, of individuals who seek these out, might be a better societal good, although the whole discussion is, to be fair, not one I really want to have, or advocate for on either side.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            No I disagree, not with information that can be copied infinitely at zero cost and is much more difficult to control. Once it's out there, it's out there. For the zero-cost reception and private storage of such images, absolutely not, as long as it's not being disseminated. It is equivalent to a moral thought crime, something that we find abhorrent, for example in radical Islamic countries, e.g. insulting their god. So prosecuting people for looking is the West's equivalent of this Islamic extremism. It's arising from the same, primitive, primal part of our brain/mind, which is driven by instinct. And the sexual instinct and drives are extremely powerful.

            The Internet should be free and safe to explore, period. Just as we can freely think anything with our minds. There should be nothing to fear if we encounter abhorrent material, other than the disgust that comes from seeing it. We should be able to close the browser window in that case, without having to there the Gestapo at our door.

            So If someone were to possess the memories of witnessing a rape in public, and then remember them, since the brain is also a computer, are they committing a crime then by the act of thinking about the memory, i.e. recalling it? They would obviously be storing the images in their mind... That's the kind of analogy I'm making.... Not perfect, but I'm at least getting closer to the point now...

            https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2021/10/freedom-thought-increasingly-violated-worldwide-un-expert-warns

            "Freedom of thought is an absolute right that is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, alongside the distinct yet equal freedoms of conscience and religion or belief, Shaheed said. "

            I believe this should be the same for passive reception of information, an absolute right.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Because human skin is a scarce limited resource that cannot be duplicated, we do not have Star-Trek style replicators, then obviously the purchase of that lampshade incites the supplier to manufacture more, in order to replenish the lost stock from production of that lampshade. That is not the case with information, which can be duplicated at near-zero cost. So there is no direct need to replenish any lost stock with computer data, because it is not a tangible, physical, scare item. My analogy is that data and thought are equivalent... Yes thought is data, information. And the brain is an information duplicating machine just as a computer is...

            Also the purchase of the lampshade is funding the abusers in that case. Giving them more resources for the further manufacture of more items made from human skin. Thus further entrenching the abuse.

            You could make the same analogy that by buying eggs (in the US at least), you are directly involved in the barbaric cruelty against male chicks, which are shredded alive in a process called "Instantaneous Euthanasia" - search for this on YouTube, warning it is very upsetting. And so many people continue to buy them and nothing is done. And purchasing eggs definetely funds the hatcheries, these are scarce tangible products, once an egg is bought it requires hens to be replaced as they only lay a certain number of eggs in their lifespan. That entails more chicks, of which 50% are male and thus shredded alive.

            Same for buying clothes made in South East Asian sweatshops using possibly child labour too. These again are tangible items and cannot be replicated at zero-cost as information can.

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              If your argument is that CP shouldn't be illegal if it has been copied from other CP, then you might have a bit of a logic flaw there. It doesn't matter what generation that copy is, if the original image is of actual child abuse that has actually happened. There is a victim at the end of that chain you are holding; it doesn't matter how long the chain is, the victim is still there.

              As I said, if there is no victim at then end, then the arguments about sponsoring abuse don't hold, up in the same way, and I think there is an argument that people seeking out such images aren't necessarily causing harm in the same way, although I also think that they need psychiatric treatment. Whether or not you consider such thoughts and desires as a mental illness comes down, I suppose, as to whether you think child abuse is socially acceptable.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                I think that just browsing it, not paying for it, should not be illegal. The actual abuse is the production of the photo. There is no victim from the act of viewing the image. There is a victim from creating the illegal image and the abuser is responsible for that. The person who received the image did not abuse the child, the abuser did. The victim is further harmed from someone disseminating the image too. But no actual direct harm comes from the act of browsing it.

                You could say that by eliminating the market we might prevent further abuse, and that might be correct. However doing so is totalitarian over-control of society, we could do all sorts of other very nasty, very intrusive things, to prevent crime, but they are so draconian that they have no place in a truly free society. And they create all sorts of unintended consequences, like innocent people getting caught up in the stings. Which can be even more hazardous than the problem we are originally trying to stop. Pedophiles only make up a very small percentage of the population. They are not around every corner. Domestic abuse and even road traffic accidents are far more hazardous. Our outsized reaction to the problem indicates that there is an irrational, likely instinctual, emotional drive behind it.

                Look at what happened with alcohol prohibition, yes alcohol is very harmful to children, from abusive drunken parents, but banning it is not the solution, it is an affront to our rights. Clamping down on it's use in such a heavy handed way caused more problems than it solved.

                The same applies to marijuana prohibition, which was an utter disaster with millions incarcerated and then turning to crime once they came out of jail. Better to manage the situation and go after producers and distributors, instead of creating an absolute travesty of a situation.

                1. Evil Scot Bronze badge

                  I disagree with this.

                  Yes the sharing of non consensual photographs of me as a child cannot hurt me further. But the records from couriers that have handled the image would, I hope, help track down those involved in its creation. Preventing damage to others.

                  You might think you can scan a device. But not if it contains a non stock OS.

                  You cannot ban end to end encryption, the source code is out there.

                  You cannot stop users from side loading applications onto a phone where the app has its own encrypted file system.

                  You have no if idea the data in that file on the device is commercial sensitive, so it is difficult to block. Which reminds me that I had four models of a device with secure comms and that certain nations took offence to this feature as they could not spy on their people. No doubt there is an audit trail of these message envelopes but you would have to explain to RIM Canada why you want it. Meta hold this data too.

                  By pushing this deeper underground I see no safety net, just the holes.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Thoughts and desires are very different things to carrying out the act. There are many steps from fantasizing about something and acting out on it. If there are uncontrollable impulses, then yes psychiatric treatment may be necessary. However plain thoughts on their own do not cause any harm. There is a big difference between fantasy and reality. And I think the act of only viewing images, falls into the realm of fantasy. When emotions run high about hot button topics such as these, the distinction can get lost. Our brain takes shortcuts and jumps to conclusions rapidly when we get very emotional, as we do about this issue. Black and white thinking can occur as well.

                And even more so when there is a very primitive, primal emotional drive involved, as is the case with reproduction. That is the caveman in us, in action here. Our 100,000 year old selves.

                Some people actually have difficult differentiating between thoughts, fantasies and action. There is an "OCD spectrum", which I mentioned previously: https://www.verywellmind.com/thought-action-fusion-and-ocd-2510478

                From the book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perv-Sexual-Deviant-All-Us/dp/0374230897:

                "Rarely has man been more cruel against man than in the condemnation and punishment of those accused of the so-called sexual perversions. The penalties have included imprisonment, torture, the loss of life or limb, banishment, blackmail, social ostracism, the loss of social prestige, renunciation by friends and families, ... public condemnation by emotionally insecure and vindictive judges on the bench... "

                It is literally primal, primitive form of insanity manifesting itself. Likely because this behavior provided for increased reproductive fitness for the group....

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  I should stop "spamming" this forum, I've posted far too many times about this controversial topic.

                  http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/thoc/HumanInstincts.html

                  " Like all animals, humans have instincts, genetically hard-wired behaviors that enhance our ability to cope with vital environmental contingencies. Our innate fear of snakes is an example. Other instincts, including denial, revenge, tribal loyalty, greed and our urge to procreate, now threaten our very existence. "

                  So these instincts are absolutely not adapted for the modern age we're living in. And that shows by the barbaric things done to people who happen to only view an "inappropriate image"... They are treated just like heretics in medieval times. Especially in the USA, with insane mandatory minimum sentences.

                  They might be appropriate for 100,000 years ago but certainly not for 2022! And we live in much safer times, by orders of magnitude, than even 1000 years ago. Let alone 100,000 years.

                  1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                    If humans couldn't override their instincts with consciously moderated behaviour, we'd just be one mass of grunting, fighting, shagging and eating to excess. We'd live naked in caves waiting for someone to invent fire, if only it wasn't so scary.

                    Yes, that's a reductio ad absurdum argument, but it is clearly obvious that most people in society can control their animal instincts, and those who cannot are generally considered to be psychotic. That's hardly an argument that "CP should be fine as long as I'm not the one doing the abuse".

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      But there are still instincts that we don't pay attention to, such as the tribal ones that result in racism and ingroup/outgroup discrimination, which still cause so many problems. In an enlightened society we will be aware of them and how they can influence us, so that we don't act on such impulses.

            2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

              Yes, with a caveat

              I agree with all your posts on this topic.

              Thought is an act but is different in kind from other acts and should not concern the state. Information as a collection of bits is not subject to the same supply and demand arguments as other objects.

              However, my experience is that thoughts change the future thinking, and information changes the present thought which changes the future thinking. So //as an individual// I want to avoid certain thoughts/information which I predict, based on past experience, will lastingly harm me.

              The tricky part is whether, knowing what I know about myself, should the same restrictions be applied to other people? And I have to say ... No! Other people might not experience any harm at all, or they might have //reasons// for taking a risk with the thoughts/information, or in the final analysis if no one goes there then the only way to judge the thoughts/information would be a fallacious appeal to authority.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Yes, with a caveat

                The vast majority of peoples' minds don't have any problem with thinking "bad thoughts".... The chain of effects is usually not that causal... What you do with your mind is your responsibility only, I don't have anything to do with it! :-)

          3. Filippo Silver badge

            > There is an argument that, in possessing such images, the possessor is creating a "market" for their creation

            It's ironic that the other major group who would love the ability to snoop in my data is music/movie rights holders, and that they would make the diametrically opposite argument.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "To get an idea of the scope of the problem, two women are murdered by their partners every week in the UK (and 30 men every year)."

        I see this as another problem with how girls are brought up and aren't taught how to make good choices. Ask a PC about the ones that still profess love for their partners as they try and find the teeth that have been knocked out. They are likely the ones that weren't warned that getting a ride to a party with a dodgy friend that could bug out and not say is a bad idea. Then there are the little hints like not having mixed drinks and only drinking from something they've opened themselves and haven't lost track of. As soon as they set their drink down and look away, walk away. These days parents might want to arrange taxi fare from anywhere to home either prepaid or chargeable. I heard of one taxi company doing that and it may be catching on. It keeps kids from getting stuck somewhere when they find themselves uncomfortable about the situation.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Why? Ten years ago, I told my girlfriend's teenage daughters that if they ever needed a ride home, from anywhere, at any time, for any reason, all they had to do was call me and I'd be on the way with no questions asked. I've had to make 5 trips between 2 and 5am to pick them up from somewhere they decided they didn't want to be.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "I've had to make 5 trips between 2 and 5am to pick them up from somewhere they decided they didn't want to be."

            It's good they trusted you. It might have gone bad if they were too embarrassed to call their folks or decided to wait a bit longer before they worked up the courage. You might have still asked some questions about lessons learned ,........ this time. Teenage girls being out and needing a lift home between 2 and 5am isn't a good thing. Perhaps more thought on the front end of that timeline would have been a good thing.

    4. ITS Retired
      Childcatcher

      "Anderson argues that this taxonomy of harms reflects the interests of criminal investigators rather than welfare of children."

      One solution is a deep look into the private lives of these people that want to pass these laws that allow <u>them</u> to look into the private lives of the rest of us.

  6. Oglethorpe

    Complex systems need testing

    Perhaps a group of 650 individuals, with the public being free to audit the collected data in real-time?

    1. MrBanana

      Re: Complex systems need testing

      I don't think I could sit through that much tractor p0rn.

      1. Totally not a Cylon
        Coat

        Re: Complex systems need testing

        And manhole covers, not porn but........

        One of our esteemed politicians can identify the location and maker of every manhole cover in the UK...

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Complex systems need testing

          Oh good. Do you think he could locate the one that's been missing from the alley behind my house for the last week?

          1. Alumoi Silver badge

            Re: Complex systems need testing

            Who do you think stole it?

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Beyond that, Anderson says that pervasive surveillance, without cause, violates human rights law"

    There's a simple solution to that (as indicated by the proposed effective neutering of the UK data protection law) - and that's just to abandon human rights law. I guess I shouldn't have suggested it, but there are murmurs in the UK that indicate it's already been thought of.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re:

      It doesn't just abandon human rights, it inverts the fundamental legal principle of habeas corpus. What's proposed by the snoopers is to turn everyone into a suspect unless they can "prove" they're not. Proof is provided by a negative scan.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "Beyond that, Anderson says that pervasive surveillance yadda yadda

      "I guess I shouldn't have suggested it, but there are murmurs in the UK that indicate it's already been thought of."

      The longer that politicians are left in the political zoo, the more their brains deteriorate. Once they've had a certain dose, call it a lifetime limit and make them go out and get a real job.

  8. b0llchit Silver badge
    WTF?

    Illegal speech???

    ...models to detect illegal speech...

    This is a real WTF? Speech is not and can never be "illegal". You cannot detect "illegal" speech. If (some) speech is "illegal", then we have given up our freedom of expression.

    The illegality is the action that follows the speech or is accompanied by it. The speech itself is never ever illegal.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Illegal speech???

      Well, in the USA, perhaps, by statute.

      But your post illustrates the basic fallacy that there *are no rights* other than those which a legislative body permits. 'Human rights' are a myth; in spite of their adoption and support by the United Nations, look how many places simply do not permit those rights to be exercised. As long as a government - legitimate or not - can usurp those rights for even one of its citizens, those rights may as well not exist.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Human rights are a fact

        It is not because there are countries that do not recognize them that Human Rights do not exist.

        Just like it is not because the school bully goes bullying that he is justified in doing so.

        It would, of course, be nice if every country recognized the charter, but we live in an imperfect world and we have to make do with it.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Illegal speech???

      Crying "fire" in a crowded theatre simply to try and cause a dangerous stampede would be illegal speech, and has been even in the US as long ago as 1884.

      So speech can be illegal.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Illegal speech???

        The action is the intended disruption/panic; that is the illegal part. The speech of "fire" is protected.

        I know, it is a very fine line, but it is an important distinction.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Illegal speech???

        Shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre is an action which could cause harm to others. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

      3. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Illegal speech???

        This sort of language was justification for a bad ruling by the supreme court, in schenck vs united states. It was later overturned in brandenberg vs ohio, which restricted the scope of the prohibition to any speech that was both directed, and likely, to cause immediate lawless action. Falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre does not meet this standard.

        It is worth repeating that schenck vs united states ruling, which established the initial precedent that people on the internet love to cite against words they don't want to hear, was the supreme court twisting itself into a knot, trying to justify imprisoning a man who had printed a newsletter criticising the US government for its participation in the first world war. Their claim was that, by merely criticising the actions of the government, he was fomenting sedition against the united states.

        The lesson to take is this: When the government attempts to outlaw speech, other than direct and immediate calls to unlawful action, it is always for the purpose of extending the power of the state to silence dissent. It will always be dressed up in the language of whatever is the contemporary zeitgeist or the current popular movement, but underneath is always the same urge: To inhibit disagreement with the state and its agents. We can see that clearly during the funeral of the Queen, when multiple people were arrested and charged for "causing offence" against a sufficiently powerful figure, merely for protesting in bad taste. A protest made in bad taste should not be a criminal offence, but in this country it not only is a criminal offence, but that status as an offence has been used to silence people who wanted to express their peaceful opposition to the current structure of our government, or to the people that benefit from that structure.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Illegal speech???

          "Falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre does not meet this standard."

          Which only means that the statute being tested wasn't the correct one to use. If you spliced into the PA system at a football game and made a statement that the stadium needed to be cleared as quickly as possible due to a bomb, you would find yourself being held liable for every death, injury and loss of revenue and damage to the stadium. Count on it. A prosecutor might even argue that the act was meant to kill people and ask for the death penalty.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Illegal speech???

            That probably would meet the standard. Intended and liable to cause immediate lawless action. Of course, the person would also probably be facing trespass, vandalism, breaking and entering, and a few sundry other charges, which would compound the issue. If he'd just been yelling from the stands, people would have told him to shut up. I don't see why you're trying to split hairs over this.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Illegal speech???

      Of course speech can be illegal, even in the USA where Freedom of Speech is a core right granted by the Constitution.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_free_speech_exceptions

      "Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment (and therefore may be restricted) include obscenity, fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, speech that violates intellectual property law, true threats, and commercial speech such as advertising. Defamation that causes harm to reputation is a tort and also an exception to free speech."

      Also:

      "The Supreme Court has held that "advocacy of the use of force" is unprotected when it is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and is "likely to incite or produce such action"." Note that this is the case even if the speech doesn't result in "imminent lawless action", i.e. it's not the lawless action (which might or might not happen) that is the issue here but the speech itself.

      No right is absolute. Freedom of Speech is not exempt from that.

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Illegal speech???

      "Free speech" is speech that you are free to make, i.e. anything that is not explicitly illegal.

      The existence of speech that is free does not imply that all speech is free.

      Some of the myriad examples of speech that is not free are: threats of violence, fraud, slander...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Illegal speech???

        Would the person who down-voted that like to explain to me why they think threats of violence, fraud, and slander are free speech? Alex Jones has just found out, to his great expense, that you are wrong.

        What is notable about the US constitution is that it enshrines free speech in constitutional law, so that a citizen of the US knows that is they say something that isn't explicitly forbidden by law they won't be done for it. To be fair, that is kind-of stating the obvious, because in most democracies that is a given, as is, by extension, the right to protest.

        We are a long way from the old French system of law, where only those things that are explicitly permitted are allowed.

    5. J. Cook Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Illegal speech???

      That, and how the hell does one determine what is 'illegal'?

      From the article:

      Levy and Robinson propose "have language models running entirely locally on the client to detect language associated with grooming."

      On a certain level, I know what grooming is, but no one has really stated in these proposals an actual legal definition of it, preferring to lean entirely on the emotional response it invokes, which leads to bad laws that can be interpreted in any number of ways, depending on what the person's trying to achieve with it.

      And plus, if the kids are told that they are under surveillance, they'll figure ways around it, especially if it's a case of parents abusing their children by putting them under surveillance. (which happens frequently enough)

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Illegal speech???

      "Speech is not and can never be "illegal""

      Well, there is ye ol' shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre.

      Slander.

      Lying under oath.

      "Funding secured" although that was writing rather than speech.

      Inciting to riot. Get rid of that one and they would have to find something else to haul D. Trump into court over since that's what they would like to do him for along with other things.

      I have to agree than any form of speech done in private shouldn't be illegal. If we can't talk about anything and everything we wind up with "He who cannot be named" and can't tell anybody what that name is. We also lose the ability to teach and explore our dark side. What does 'right' mean when we cannot describe what a 'wrong' thing is. In those discussions the least useful thing is for a swarm of helicopters, black SUV's and highly armed and unsmiling people arriving to discuss the matter in their own way (grunts and rude gestures mainly along with the physical violence, of course).

  9. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "there *are no rights* other than those which a legislative body permits"

    Ultimately, that is true. But there's a major distinction in principle between Common Law and Civil Law in that the former allows everything that is not expressly prohibited but the latter does the opposite. In an effective democracy (particularly a Common Law one) it takes legislation to extend the scope of the prohibited, which acts a check on its extension. Unfortunately, at least in the UK, there has been a progressive move towards secondary legislation, which allows regulations to be introduced without full scrutiny by Parliament, effectively undermining democratic protection.

    Nevertheless, human rights do still exist insofar as violation of them is internationally considered an offence, witness the European rejection of the UK "snoopers' charter" legislation. Whether such rejection has any practical effect is of course another matter.

    1. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

      Re: "there *are no rights* other than those which a legislative body permits"

      >But there's a major distinction in principle between Common Law and Civil Law in that the former allows everything that is not expressly prohibited but the latter does the opposite.

      Sorry but that's simply not true. In Civil Law, too, anything that's not forbidden is allowed.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: "there *are no rights* other than those which a legislative body permits"

        "Sorry but that's simply not true"

        I sit corrected. But I think the rest of my argument remains valid.

  10. firu toddo
    Coat

    Scan This!

    Call me paranoid, but!

    This proposed legislation and the crazy technical solutions being proposed has nothing to do with preventing child abuse. ('Protecting the children' is a typical dog whistle that is often applied to proposals to shame opponents into keeping shtum. I mean, only a pervert would argue against any measure to protect kids, right?)

    It hasn't got much to do with the 'Prevention of terrorism' either. Using mass surveillance suggests we are all terrorist suspects. Trawling the millions of private messages of tens of millions of UK citizens every day, for say, a thousand terrorist plots is insane. You'd need to know who they were first, and getting an anonymous mobile phone isn't that hard. Or perhaps stopping using a mobile phone for their plotting.....

    But illegal speech? Now that's more like it! Well not illegal speech, more like speech that's of interest to someone. Political opponents, trade unionists, whistle blowers, or anyone whose speech might be said to be illegal by some future politician.

    Again, I might be paranoid,but that doesn't mean the buggers aren't out to get us!

    Where's a black helicopter when I need it?

    Mine's the one with the tracker in the pocket!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Scan This!

      Considering human nature, this surveillance is like an emergent property of communications systems, such as the Internet, that happen to make it very cheap to implement... If they can do it (easily), then they will... And the excuse for doing so will arise by itself with certitude... We really need something new, at least for niche communities to experiment with, using radio or satellite one-way communication. Freedom of speech, without any form of traceability for the receiver. Having it text only, limited bandwidth would be a plus as it would keep such images off the medium.

      Here is an example of a satellite data broadcasting system, it can be received on the Telstar 11N satellite at 35.7 degrees West in both Europe and the Americas... A standard satellite dish and USB dongle can be used to receive it. It should be fairly easy to implement the Usenet headers over that and use Brotli compression for maximum bandwidth savings, for example. The receiver could be hooked up to a local NNTP server running on your PC. A really neat, completely anonymous (for receivers), text only "darknet". Sadly it doesn't get much use right now though.

      They are also experimenting with very low bandwidth, broadcast web page transmission on the QO-100 amateur radio geostationary satellite, though you need an license to transmit. The uplink for that is in the 2.4GHz band, so you can use WiFi amplifiers for that. Here is an online SDR that can be used to to receive it, the channel is right at the top of the band at 10.489995MHz.

  11. Mike 137 Silver badge

    A direct quote

    From page 19 of Anderson's paper:

    "The idea that complex social problems are amenable to cheap technical solutions is the siren song of the software salesman and has lured many a gullible government department on to the rocks."

    What more could be said to sum up the real problem?

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: A direct quote

      "the siren song"

      On board the government ship, it's the one tied to the mast who has his ears blocked, while the crew is listening to the music.

  12. katrinab Silver badge
    Megaphone

    I think a lot of people don't realist just how bad a 5% error rate actually is.

    Imaging such a system scanning the messages posted on this website:

    The number of actually illegal messages under these laws is basically zero. It would pick up 95% of zero.

    All the thousands of completely legal messages posted every day: it would pick up 5% of those.

    This would mean it picks up every even semi-regular commentard.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      5%

      "This would mean it picks up every even semi-regular commentard."

      Plus all those who upvoted.

    2. localzuk Silver badge

      We've just installed a new online safety monitoring system in our MAT. This morning alone, I've had 100+ things flagged as bullying, racism, self harm, drugs etc...

      Of all those reports? 2 were something to look at - an inappropriate game and a hacking site.

      Sure, that's using a wordset focused at children using school computers, so focused on our legally mandated requirements for "appropriate monitoring", but scale that out to all devices? The false positive rate will be absurd.

      Too much data is just as bad as no data.

  13. Totally not a Cylon
    Black Helicopters

    An on-device scanner is fine BUT

    I may or may not have at times past and maybe now being employed by Defence contractors which may or may not mean:

    I may or may not have classified information on various devices in my possession which may or may not be personal and/or (or not) company devices.

    Which leads to:

    If I have a device with classified information on for working purposes (ie fully legitmately) then any scanning software MUST be turned off.

    which leads to:

    a 'bad actor' could determine through use of scanning software when people have information on their devices by when it is turned off

    therefore to protect classified information from leaking the state of the scanning software must not be determinable by any outside party

    therefore there is no proof that said scanning software is working when it should be

    therefore there is F*** all point to having it in the first place.

    QED

    On device scanning breaches National Security and is therefore a BAD THING!

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      You misunderstood

      If you work for the government, of course you will be exempt from any scanning. Government = good, citizens = bad.

      1. DrSunshine0104

        Re: You misunderstood

        For me, as a US government employee, and the person who handles the deployment of our mobile devices that is couldn't less true. EVERYTHING on our gov-owned phones are archived. There isn't active scanning for illegal stuff on our phones, so if someone was storing illegal imagery on their work phone I wouldn't actively notified about it but if it was there, it is highly likely that would have been archived.

        I personally don't want active monitoring on our phones though, it would likely be a huge waste of my time and then it also fosters, in my opinion, a negative environment for the worker. That and I hate the general work-culture move from actually managing people to using tools and policy to manage people. So many 'managers' are not managing people, they just a grunt worker have a quota of other employees as their product. It suddenly because IT's problem to track what their employees are doing instead of the manager actually talking, mentoring, and guiding their subordinate's work.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: You misunderstood

          "I personally don't want active monitoring on our phones though, it would likely be a huge waste of my time and then it also fosters, in my opinion, a negative environment for the worker. "

          I would assume that people issued a mobile phone by the government are told or at least given the rules, regs and whatfors about that phone. If they are so stupid that they'd search for and DL CP anyway, it's a way to get them the hell out of gov service and revoke their golden retirement package, get-out-of-jail-free card, super platinum health care and insider information to help with their investment portfolio.

          BTW, I DO want monitoring and archiving of all government issued phones. These are given to people to do their jobs on behalf of the citizens, many of whom are taxpayers. There's damn little oversight into what many of them are doing anyway so we need to make sure that we keep feeding them enough rope to hang themselves when they are finally caught.

  14. karlkarl Silver badge

    Every month, everyone's phone should dump their contents to a big ol' FTP site and everyone on the planet can then just sift through it looking for evidence of foul play.

    It is fair, peer "reviewed" and open, allowing the use of automated scripts and "AI".

    The arguments against doing so are exactly the same as all the other "think of the children" solutions. The only difference is this (admittedly extreme) example I just gave is fair on *everyone* not just the criminals such as governments or weapons agencies.

    Since privacy is an illusion, if we have to give anyone control over our information, I say lets give it to everyone and vice versa.

  15. Sgt_Oddball

    What is being promoted as dangerous

    Says as much as the desire to rifle through it.

    There's no mention of looking for fraud, tax evasion or insider trading using broken encryption. No crimes that remove funds available to do the boots on the ground stuff are being targeted as a way to actually do some good protecting children.

    There's also no balance - get caught up with a false positive? Tough. We've killed your account, kept the money, deleted all content and removed any legal comeback to the service provider, all without a human applying common sense or thst most rare of things nuance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is being promoted as dangerous

      A false positive for illegal pornography is basically the end of someone's life..

      Yes an HTTPS request made by that person's iPhone acting as a snitch, a state informant, to notify law enforcement. Likely protected by ARM TrustZone security technology, including secure boot, so you can't disable it easily.

      They will be smeared in the local community before any trial... Neighbours will see a police raid, word will spread. It really is the modern version of being called a witch. Or an "unperson" in 1984 speak... And this illegal pornography can be as trivial as simple cartoons or Japanese "hentai" anime.

      Be careful about even putting that "hentai" term into Google, you can get a warning message from them, even for an completely innocuous and legal search for statistics relating to this material, yes really - it is a nightmare on an Orwellian scale. You will feel what it's like to live under "big brother" for real. To reiterate, now you will experience that awful feeling when reading Orwell's novel, not anymore as a fantasy, but for real this time. Many times people only realise the extent of the problem when it affects them personally.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: What is being promoted as dangerous

        "A false positive for illegal pornography is basically the end of someone's life.."

        All for somebody sending a photo to the doctor of the rash the baby has to see if they should be brought in right away or not.

  16. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

    >illegal speech

    >hate speech

    I prefer the term doubleplusbad speech, myself.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      There is no "bad" in Newspeak. It's "ungood".

      ++ungood;

      -A.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        "Doubleplusungoodspeak," I believe.

  17. Tron Silver badge

    Unfortunately, it will happen.

    UK governments can't resist handing fat contracts to their outsourcing mates to produce crap software, and love the idea of universal surveillance. Plus politicians have net zero understanding of tech. And the media, such as the BBC, have been running internet scare stories every day for years.

    I buy and sell juveniles regularly. That's trade speak for children's books. AI and other forms of BS cannot contextualise. So expect a lot of angry bookdealers taking court action against the woodentops.

    The fun will begin when the firmware is hacked or the data diverted, which it will be.

    And when the internet is no longer a system for empowering users, and is primarily a system of state surveillance, net connectivity will become the primary target of every activist on the planet.

    The real solution of course, is for parents to actually make an effort to monitor their kids' iThings.

    That should be assisted by Big Tech producing heavily restricted versions of their services for kids.

    TL;DR. Everything is going to get worse in the future because we are governed by morons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfortunately, it will happen.

      I think past roughly 2010 or so the Internet stopped being a system for user empowerment... It shifted to a system that benefits those in power, rather than the user...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    End-to-end-encryption (aka E2EE).....but citizens do not have to rely on service providers!!!

    Ha.....End-to-end-encryption....

    The people who want to break E2EE, or who want to implement client-side scanning....none of these people ask two simple questions:

    (1) Who controls the E2EE process?

    (2) Who controls the client-side scanning process?

    (A1) The answer in both cases is likely to be some corporate entity (e.g. Signal, FB, Apple.....).

    So my questions about this situation are these:

    (3) Do you trust the implementers mentioned in answer #A1?

    (4) Do you trust the folk (Levy, Robinson, NSA, GCHQ...) who want to break E2EE?

    My position is simple: I don't trust ANY of the E2EE implememters, and I don't trust Levy, Robinson and all the other government sock puppets.

    So...what to do? Why not implement private encryption to be used by you and your correspondents? Note that your private encryption only needs to deliver secret communications for, say, a year. Message encryption does not need to be secret forever....

    So....what to do:

    (5) Do some design work around Diffie/Hellman. Some research on prime numbers bigger than 8192 bits would also help.

    (6) Do some design work around available public encryption schemes (AES, IDEA, samba, chacha and so on).

    (7) Do some design work around implementing multi-pass encryption (so that snoops cannot deternine even that the first pass has been broken).

    (8) Coded in C, items #5 through #7 can be implemented in less than 3000 lines of code.

    Now if multiple private groups were to go this route, then the snoops (NSA, GCHQ, Five Eyes, and so on) would NOT ONLY have to attack commercial products (Signal, FB, Apple and so on), but they would have to attack all the private schemes as well!! They can start with this privately encrypted message:

    dx+VY7JSKmX3chDDoJJ2m/HLkX45Xq3db9r4U732/JwB3Qu0cS5L+PZ/RJw/UJX3obDEqQZ53D91

    wJ7Sqo+TqHqv25jfQ0IYA9Owu29Klu0se6vD8hhdBEh2KjmzC13hRmndfE6qN27glMtgQ5AfCsZN

    W6ZHOmxNLtlb4qQ3ykHeEN2tJppFK+P9NV9rX8x5rpBcIuI5ttN02FRKpBfPoMMoVyy80JTUCNUa

    E/Fo9eohar6OaQwpsAT8s0PIY33TKtFYdF3UtWTsV2SIu4c1hUrUb68UEJOtXUWMDdc5eU2i3a/J

    mXjB8pORkQ35SpGMFjTjSLY9j9YacfdMkBj/R3g5NV2qlhEoyMeySjc3PP4Un1z906TIO4emym43

    WZTVZxxKQH3R//I888TB4xWkrvfwv/IkE7GbrgtlJMQKisi3JMVxqNqHLMEvXTrjKi0OBRwenADp

    RlW+/nWUpI5v1V+GH6+7dRdwqOVuM70sUnE9ED9QFP60k7OoWHrCGHchusxy6ruiL3vOGBcOMa0j

    ZMrsgttOkr1Itv0VHXIxXZdi43I5aFvk01AoSxHf8enJ4x9jWRK/lAopxg98h4z8tjTJWcDYQtS0

    OSNLZkAA1Ei//5vvaYyiWjlDklej4eLaO/wemTXCNFjxdikaLTJwn1xu8RAu+0wUpw4x+q3b/wd8

    dqwV0kxWv4Q0QH1r8qE0U8XKwBlTI1QI8rXDikwipJHfmyym6hGLx916KdrqoSWlyg+tRVDedRHz

    piR1e+3vy2b0bOVCo0EnwLrKIZqk8u6Setdn8obhe2j5UJgUHgaBwt3jTtyJHLDZWY9DmJ59hLRn

    KL4CvOg+cSBew4kpg/goc1zfqmjzu4WHrH82BC7WPjI1FTu5x15WI9KagQQac4LJYc/IRbMAk/oE

    +Dhznxxm98C3QoXmPOG8+5WS6hO/JS5wmGNhPvKRWBhc/pIdVYRiV6pQpRCtmdy31bfWL3CHkSUx

    M9FVMMD9RV2IQYmbrY4GgyDBppvuw3dVVdqUV8nKP4j2KsDKhx5k/9DP4w81DmtJiG2x3JMicQOH

    cjEMwV3Bg23babtHW3Lj8eRWvMITu+37SNSisW5+JpLGIKdJBsSXPVi31aMe/SF1Wal85T4E3v9Z

    tbNLGEwW8U+hYzU2C3iRjgXwvCa2wcsR9sGYC5K7mYxRgjj/UCEsnpOVekhC775NQoZvU7qH4Cen

    B6D0fNI68DAuDS4BcxhDXtKDS1d1uy9N+iPtvQRzWNcmMhUUIaO7QKPgg86/Gi7ww213hL9ekiWt

    Fb/cqZmniTkjvHJle1MfkYUhD1XlNu9Ida6X/zkxswfS6z1TcHSBfsww7VMWgujixVeuTsMgRnQI

    0nyh6P7BXs4MENH52FiwpDnAQvbKMa1o0kMwMqlRnbdpgOkr4RwHxyvFAOp6GZ3OIfB4gFtaN2X6

    F/QW55vk8acMey47hEIBOgBwpmPI9SobYdOBPB5Ql2XSZ8DydSGA9iaWz64kIuyKm8/eGHe6iTDC

    RT50kHp+zAQdmgwa/fj/HXWfNVnRrxf/BUWHuCRV5906Tmb+bCm4CFdt18GoZZaGshK4lhORY0KD

    WIyS67M1nMMZJd1k27RFim1jJkhBxXg/UxHnw2Xe8ZOip5Os/Q5lgfmZnbRkrgJVHLfsvYX40KQs

    MMILTxB3Ll00CrkMEshyb9n5g3mUm0kHYPgW0IzWU0K2L7GEpYvxWNHl/F12yuwtMr0htWg5Hv4f

    we4vRreoPk2C13NySRmeR5vOe4uLShcpiExbi8jSm8HbNzE8jASWgK9eq6USdXV6cLoa3gmAiv9n

    T9thMNXJYQ==

    Private groups who use private encryption BEFORE their messages enter any public channel ensure that this example is exactly the type of thing that the snoops will see when the snoops break E2EE!!! Yup.....E2EE might be broken, but all the snoops get to see....is more encryption!

    ====

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: End-to-end-encryption (aka E2EE).....but citizens do not have to rely on service providers!!!

      Why not just use some reference implementations (for which you have the source code), using certified pairs of public/private keys to encrypt your communications.

      Sure, doing encryption properly is hard, but it's not so hard you can't copy a reference implementation.

      Of course, you have to trust your compiler.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: End-to-end-encryption (aka E2EE).....but citizens do not have to rely on service providers!!!

        @Loyal_Commenter

        Good points.....except for the fact that the snoops also have access to the same code.

        Yes...encryption is hard.....

        Yes...there's the so called "Ken Thompson Hack"....

        .....but surely the main point is to make snooping much harder for the snoops!!!!......................

        .....rather than leave personal privacy to people at Signal, FB, Apple...who can't be trusted either!!

        Quote (William Burroughs): "The paranoid is a person who knows a little of what is going on."

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: End-to-end-encryption (aka E2EE).....but citizens do not have to rely on service providers!!!

          If the source is open source, it can be inspected. Vulnerabilities can be found, It's about as much trust as we can expect.

          The "Ken Thomson Hack" (which is what that link was to, for those who didn't want to follow random links), is, thankfully, targeted. In the classic case, it replaces the Unix login command. It does nothing if you amend your kernel source sufficiently to use a completely different named command to log in; well, the "worst case" is that it adds the back-doored login command, which shouldn't be there, and would stand out.

          The point here, is that the attacker in this case must know something about the target (the attacker being Ken Thompson, and the target being the Unix kernel).

          If you take a reference implementation of an encryption cipher, change function names, refactor bits here and there, and so on, to mix the code around enough so that it still does the same thing, but looks different, then the "hack" must be able to identify the right bit of code to modify. In practice, being able to pull this off is vanishingly unlikely.

          So we are left with, "do we trust reference implementations." I guess the answer here is that you have to learn enough about the code that you can at least identify what each part of it is doing, and how it does it. Any back-door should stand out like a sore thumb. In practice, if this was happening, the odds are it would already have been found.

  19. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    On a vaguely related note, am I alone in being concerned about several recent cases in which groups have been arrested for obnoxious comments made in closed WhatsApp groups? Yes, some of the comments were appalling but where does this end - checking what people are saying round a table in the pub? what they say over dinner?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shit, that's what happens when you have computers (smartphones) making a permanent record of everything you say, one day to be used against you... Everything we do is on record nowadays and there is almost no escaping it if you want to have a social life...

      A drunken blunder, one misstep and the wrong kind of person sees it and reports it... How the Internet has enabled "total policing" of everything we do, because we put everything online and voluntarily too.

      Dystopia came about through choice of the masses, not coercion by the government. And opting out has an opportunity cost. Though you can make up for that somewhat...

      And we put "report" buttons on everything, so we can snitch on each other at the tap of a screen. It must have been around 2009 where these "report" buttons started cropping up. And I felt the creeping of the "electronic police state" getting closer and closer even back then. I was already in shock from hearing about Operation Ore then... So I really knew what "electronic injustice" looks like... All those years ago...

  20. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Thin end of the wedge

    Start searching for child porn to get the laws on the books, ends with the government investigating opposition party members, local councils investigating people complaining about services, just all sorts of abuse. The important thing for them is to get the phone search software into place to begin with. This is nothing but an opening for widescale government warrantless surveillance. The data slurpers will support this 100 percent as it's government madated slurping, authorized so long as the slurpers pass on to the government anything juicy on the government's wish list. The government likes it because if the government isn't doing the search, no warrant is needed. It's perfectly legal for the goverbment to act on a tip. If you argue against it, why you MUST be a child molester because only child molesters can POSSIBLY be against this!

    And it won't do a thing for kiddie porn. Criminals have been using burner phones for years, and considering what happens to kiddie diddlers* in prison they will go to extraordinary lengths to not get caught. Using a burner phone is just part of it.

    *Those who go to prison on a child molesting charge rarely survive their sentences unless separated from the general population at all times. And even then, they wind up hanging themselves Epstein-style... with a lot of help from the guards.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Thin end of the wedge

      *Those who go to prison on a child molesting charge rarely survive their sentences unless separated from the general population at all times.

      Have you any evidence to support that? The number of UK prisoners killed is minute: https://www.statista.com/statistics/314629/prison-deaths-england-and-wales/

  21. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Telescreen 1.1

    “Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing.”

    – George Orwell

  22. Yes Me Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Who's behind this?

    Nobody else seems to have suggested that the true instigators of this nonsense may well be the signals intelligence agencies. They've been stretching the legal limits of surveillance and denigrating public access to powerful e2e cryptography for several decades, with limited success. Now, maybe, they've found a winner: make child abuse the excuse for what they have always wanted to do. It only needs a few gullible politicians and journalists to fall for it.

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