GCHQ Boss Says Tech Companies, Government Should Work Together To Give The Government What It Wants

from the putting-the-'I'-back-in-'team' dept

The head of GCHQ has decided to make some belated overtures to the tech companies intelligence agencies have alienated over the past few years. With the UK’s ever-evolving Investigatory Powers Act hanging around like an unwanted, hungover and extremely nosy houseguest, GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan says it’s time for the government and tech companies to work together for the mutual betterment of both to give government agencies the access they’re stopping just short of legislating into existence.

He starts by stating he doesn’t want to ban encryption or demand backdoors…

“It should be possible for technical experts to sit down together and work out solutions,” he said. “I am not in favor of banning encryption. Nor am I asking for mandatory back doors. …

…before stating that backdoors would be a wonderful thing. They just might need to undergo rebranding.

“Not everything is a back door, still less a door which can be exploited outside a legal framework.”

OH. You want those kinds of backdoors: the ones that can only be solely exploited within a legal framework. Sorry, we’re fresh out. It’s not that tech companies don’t want to help, but even “technical experts” can’t craft an exploitable “not a backdoor” that can only be exploited by whoever the government decides should be able to exploit it. (“Working together” or not, it will be the government that determines access, rather than the technical experts at tech companies who designed it.)

So, Hannigan doesn’t want a backdoor. He wants another set of keys for the front door and is requesting that all parties work together to decide whether this set should be left in the mailbox or under the welcome mat. This skewed view likely comes from Hannigan’s assumption that the many years of tech compnany cooperation intelligence and law enforcement agencies have enjoyed comes from a deep well of heartfelt goodwill, rather than numerous laws compelling them to do so.

Nonetheless, Hannigan—making just his second appearance in a public forum since taking the helm of GCHQ in 2014—said tech companies should work more closely with governments to try to come up with ways to give law enforcement what it wants. “The perception that there is nothing but conflict between governments and the tech industry is a caricature,” he said in his speech. “In reality, companies are routinely providing help within the law, and I want to acknowledge that today.”

It may have been less of a caricature pre-2013, but it was never simply about tech companies giving the government whatever it wanted whenever it asked for it. That’s why the world’s intelligence agencies are hoarding exploits, buying malware from shady merchants, and intercepting hardware shipments to add their own backdoors.

And so, yet another request goes out for cooperation in the ongoing search for an intelligence/law enforcement unicorn while War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” plays in the background. Nothing’s going to move forward until officials like Hannigan admit the thing they want (a safe backdoor) isn’t something they can actually have — at least not without a lot of collateral damage. If they can at least be honest enough to state they want it no matter how many problems it causes elsewhere, then maybe they’ll be ready to move to the next level of discussion — even if the “next level” means the discussion has reached its logical endpoint.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “GCHQ Boss Says Tech Companies, Government Should Work Together To Give The Government What It Wants”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'How about a compromise? We'll do things my way.'

Given how many cookie jars the various intelligence agencies have been caught with their hands in in the past few years alone, that they expect anyone to trust them at this point shows either monumental denial, equally massive arrogance, or both.

They have demonstrated all too well that they cannot be trusted to show restraint or play within the rules, along with showing a complete indifference to how their actions and/or demands will affect things beyond the immediate moment, so the idea that anyone would or should ‘work together’ with them at any point short of a threat of jail time from a judge is a joke without a punchline.

David says:

Re: Re:

No, front door. Just think how relaxed you’d be living in your house in the full knowledge that police will never batter down your door in the middle of the night because they (and who knows else) will have a universal skeleton key to your door that is handed out like candy whenever a search warrant for any house is made.

Laughing at Stasiland (profile) says:

GCHQ Boss Says Tech Companies, Government Should Work Together To Give The Government What It Wants

This is their best and brightest?

The proposal has been greeted with derision – possibly because of their history of lying?

This untrustworthy spook is so dumb that he wants a magic door … when even the modestly informed know it’s an oxymoron …. or in Hannigan’s case a basic moron

Only his second public appearance – he should:
– disappear until he and his organisation have some credibility
– get out a lot more into the real world with his ears open and his mouth shut

Jeff Green (profile) says:

This is a good idea ...

Why doesn’t GCHQ start? How about they provide a special secure way for the House of Commons committee to access all of their systems and inspect everything they have done. All without any need to contact GCHQ at all, just, say, a signature from a Police Chief Inspector or above.
Clearly from his reasoning he will be 100% in favour of this plan and as soon as his staff have designed the 100% secure way for us to check on them we will be happy to suggest others us it too …

klaus says:


The UK is a land where anti-terror laws have been widely abused against “bin-crimes”. Yes, people who’s rubbish bins were not parked on the kerb correctly. People who’s bin lids were not fully down. That sort of stuff. Bin-crime, it really is a thing in That Sceptered Isle.

The truly Orwellian RIPA laws. David Blunkett, Home Secretary under Tony Blair, was so pleased with RIPA that he wanted to follow it up with RIPA2, which was so utterly, unspeakably awful that his own son had to tell him to back off.

PaulT (profile) says:

“If they can at least be honest enough to state they want it no matter how many problems it causes elsewhere”

They don’t care about the problems, they just want to be able to deny responsibility when they happen. So, they want a backdoor that’s only accessible by the “good guys” then be able to blame tech companies for doing a bad job. It’s not their fault that such a simple request was badly implemented!

The fact that the original request is by definition impossible is none of their concern so long as they don’t get seen as at fault by the general public who don’t understand what’s going on.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Actually he’s not asking for an extra set of keys under the mat. Nor even an unlocked back door. He’s asking that every house in the world be fitted with a lock that accepts a skeleton key, and all locks accept the same skeleton key. Then copies of that key will be given to every law enforcement department, agency and every police station in the U.S. along with a key copy machine and unlimited blanks.

And then he’s saying that we’ll be safe in our houses because all those police and agencies can be trusted not to abuse the keys nor share them with any unauthorized persons.

And of course we all know that criminals and terrorists will not install locks incompatible with those keys, because That Would Be Illegal.

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