Queen Victoria’s 2015 Christmas Day address to her British subjects highlighted the triumph of light over darkness. It is, of course, important to remember the 89-year old monarch lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the rise of the Middle Class, the threat of the IRA, and a great deal more. She has seen the light of a brighter future triumph over far darker days.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spontaneous trip to Pakistan in order to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif represents a sudden shift in the deeply rooted adversarial relationship between the two nations and the very hope the Queen wished to inspire. Although the landmark gesture has already spark controversy among Indians and Pakistanis who share deeply engrained hatred for each other, it is the kind of move that can breaks the irresolvable feud, which has gripped these two populous nations for decades.
On the other hand, China’s push to enact sweeping anti-terrorism measures that would require tech companies to either hand over encryption keys and/or engineer “backdoors,” a.k.a. vulnerabilities, into their software and hardware, represents a win for darkness. Reflecting on all of the Chinese-made goods that Americans exchanged this Christmas, the far-reaching consequences of Chinese national security overreach should be clear.
Due to China’s record in respect to intellectual property rights and the state use of industrial espionage to further Chinese business interests, there is even greater concern as compared to similar efforts by the US and Britain. Recognizing US hypocrisy when it comes to national security overreach and the torture the US engaged in under the influence of the USA Patriot Act, China’s longstanding human rights record heightens concerns.
In fact, China’s embrace of additional cyber security overreach demonstrates why no government should be given open access to massive amounts of personal data. Although terrorism is a serious threat, the threat of government oppression is far more problematic. That said, this unsettling news highlights the need to combat national security overreach by all governments.
The Peoples of the world must always remember that the imminent threat of globalized terrorism is not the only national security concern. In terms of national and global security, Russian hostility continues to be a far greater threat to the US and Europe while Chinese aggression continues to be a greater threat to the US and Asia, which makes this latest move particularly disconcerting. More importantly, it is necessary to recognize the Peoples of the world are threatened by their own governments when government officials afford themselves too much power and they free to use that power as they see fit.
Information technology is valuable to investigators, because it enhances their ability to track potential threats and possibly acquire evidence from online activities. Not only does information technology provide a wealth of potential leads that can be used to help protect people from crimes like terrorism, national security warriors struggle to cope with potential threats that are made possible when technology empowers people for better or worse. Disempowering people is not, however, the way to combat the new threats created by new technologies.
Just as the world wants police on the streets to prevent crime, discourage wrongdoing, and arrest those who harm others, the same is needed on the worldwide web. Police intimidation, censorship, bullying, brutality, and other forms of abuse are not, however, acceptable in the real or cyber world. When something does go wrong, people need to know security officials will be there to stop crimes, but they do not need the police in their homes every minute of the day. Affording national security officials in any country open access to the personal data and meta-data of individuals is akin to allowing police to stalk all the Peoples of the world on a daily basis.
People speak freely and honestly when they feel safe enough to express their true beliefs and thoughts without reprisal. The internet is one place where most people can express their true interests, which is necessary for democracy and society to thrive. It is also true the internet is a safe haven that offers criminals many opportunities; however, preserving the internet from the tyranny of abusive powers does far more to empower the voiceless and unite the world as a global community for the common good.
This means national security officials in China or the West cannot be given open access to personal data and meta-data. Because there are also threats of corporate abuse and criminal theft, maintaining vast stores of data is also problematic. Forcing companies to provide decryption keys for encrypted files makes the problem even worse. In the end, the threat of terrorism is second to the tyranny national security overreach invites. China’s latest push for enhanced cyber security represents an added cost that international businesses must avoid by moving elsewhere.
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