Police Chief Warns ‘Terrorist Friendly’ Tech Firms

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Britain’s top anti-terrorism policeman launches extraordinary attack on unnamed tech firms

The unease relationship between the tech industry and law enforcement officials following the Edward Snowden revelations has been exposed once again.

The leading counter-terrorism policeman in the UK told a conference in London that some tech firms are helping militants avoid detection by developing systems that are “friendly to terrorists”.

Terrorist Tools?

Mark Rowley is the policeman in charge of the police’s counter-terrorism fight in the United Kingdom. According to Reuters, he told delegates on Tuesday that tech firms need to think about their “corporate social responsibility” in creating products which make life difficult for law enforcement to access material during investigations.

Police Security Landscape“Some of the acceleration of technology, whether it’s communications or other spheres, can be set up in different ways,” Rowley reportedly told a conference in London. “It can be set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them … and creates challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Or it can be set up in a way which doesn’t do that.”

Rowley refused to identify which tech firms he was talking about, but his comments come amid a post Snowden backdrop of increased tension and mistrust between the tech industry and law enforcement officials. The tech industry is concerned about what it feels is the increasing encroachment on customer privacy and data, and worry about the security service’s ‘big brother’ approach to technology.

“Snowden has created an environment where some technology companies are less comfortable working with law reinforcement and intelligence agencies and the bad guys are better informed,” Rowley told Reuters after his speech.

“We all love the benefit of the internet and all the rest of it, but we need their support in making sure that they’re doing everything possible to stop their technology being exploited by terrorists,” said Rowley. “I’m saying that needs to be front and centre of their thinking and for some it is and some it isn’t.”

Balancing Act

Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron promised greater surveillance powers to the UK’s intelligence agencies, should he win the general election on 7 May.

Like law enforcement officials, the Conservative Party claims that new technology is making it more difficult to foil potential threats. They promised any increase in power will be tempered with the rejection of any “authoritarian measures” that threaten civil freedoms.

Additionally, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would continue to be required to block sites that carry large amounts of illegal content, including their proxies.

Last November, Human rights campaign group Amnesty International released software to help detect whether computers are infected with surveillance spyware from government agencies.

Meanwhile Europe’s top data protection official, Peter Hustinx, has previously warned that European citizens need to be better shielded from the snooping and spying activities from the likes of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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