7 November 2013

Spying vs Hacking

It goes to show how little attention I pay to current affairs when three people who run the UK's government sponsored hacking programmes, aka MI6/MI5/GCHQ, appear in public to chat to a Parliamentary committee and I haven't heard of any of them. Messers Lobban, Sawers & Parker, all appear (gasps!) together (gosh!) and reassure our parliamentarians (phew!) that all is well with the world and that our privacy is safe in their hands. And, one assumes, in the hands of whomsoever they choose to share our privacy with.

And it made me think. We live in a democracy, albeit a limited one, and these three individuals represent huge, publicly funded organisations which hack into everyone's mail, emails, chat lines, twitter feeds and anything else they can gain access to, yet none of them are facing the sort of inquisition faced by Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks or Glenn Mulcaire.

Now, don't get me wrong, I haven't suddenly developed a soft spot for News International but I am moved to wonder how it is that the activities of Coulson, Brooks and Mulcaire can attract such a judicial response when the hacking represented by Lobban, Sawers and Parker is carried on at an industrial scale, equally without public sanction, yet the governmental hackers face absolutely no challenge.

If the state was subject to the same sanctions and constraints that the state seeks to impose on its subjects, then I would be less concerned. But the state is not and, like Sir Tim Berners-Lee, I do fear for our freedoms, even if Lobban, Sawers and Parker do not.