THE BLOG

Whatsapp and Snapchat: Social Media for Terrorists?

19/01/2015 14:04 GMT | Updated 19/03/2015 09:59 GMT

I find it baffling that at a time when millions of people are gathering in the streets of Paris, unprecedented numbers of world leaders are linking arms in front of a heavy media presence to demonstrate the right to freedom of expression, and people are risking their lives to demonstrate their right to free speech, the Prime Minister of Britain decides that now, now, is the time to try and infringe the rights of his country's citizens by suggesting the implementation of a policy banning any forms of encryption that the government cannot have access to.

It smacks to me of the post-9/11 'disaster capitalism' that resulted in the terrifying stipulations of the Patriot Act of 2001; that while the country is reeling from a horrific or tragic event, the government uses the distraction of the national newspapers to its own ends. Failing that, it relies on the irrational fears of the country to control its citizens more under the obscure veil of 'protection'.

David Cameron said in his speech on January 12 that we should "not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other", but the disturbing subtext is that if terrorists are not allowed a safe space to communicate without people snooping, neither is anyone else.

As students, we are perhaps affected the most by this potential change of policy, being amongst the primary users of the communication channels affected, such as Whatsapp and Snapchat. On the other hand, your typical older demographic of Tory voters is likely to believe the rhetoric of evil around the disturbing damage that Snapchat can supposedly do, while they think that Cameron is doing a great thing by protecting them from terrorism. I guess this is representative of a party who channel all of their efforts into the votes of the old and the elite, while ignoring the future of the country, us guys.

Furthermore, it has been pointed out that his suggestions are downright ridiculous. The government can't have a way into encrypted messages without hackers (who certainly don't have our best interests in mind) also being able to. On top of this, encryption isn't just used for social communication channels, it's also used to send most forms of confidential details over the internet, from online banking login details to credit card information for online shopping. Banning encrypted information that the government can't read would weaken all of those forms of online encryption; that's just not feasible.

There is a fine line between protection and control, and it is difficult to find this line, but for me, this line is being crossed as the government tries to gain access to all forms of online communication. As far as I can see, David Cameron is not just trying to protect us from the terrorists, but push us as a society deeper and deeper into a surveillance state where there is no space for privacy. It's up to us as a younger generation to make sure our voices are heard on this and other matters, and that restrictions on us aren't put in place to appease a political party's core vote.