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UK-France net security plan is full of hot air

A four-point French-British "action plan" to improve Internet security contains little of note and serves only to illustrate how sharply out-of-touch the leaders of the two countries are when it comes to technology.

And, of course, one cannot avoid noticing the irony in the fact that British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to tout co-operation with the European Union right at the time when talks on Britain leaving the 27-nation bloc are about to start!

The details of the plan were revealed on Tuesday, and purported to be about ensuring "the Internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals".

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in London, there have been reports that can only be charitably described as ignorant, claiming that encryption was in large measure responsible for the attacks succeeding.

The UK-France plan called for an improvement in methods to remove illegal content from the Internet. While it was proposed that companies be asked to act "proactively" to remove such content, it was only noted as an afterthought that there needed to be some way of defining of what content was not illegal.

hot air balloons.

But have no fear; both May and French President Emmanuel Macron clarified: "It may be necessary to clarify what constitutes unacceptable content online to ensure action: this process may require regulation. We will jointly develop proposals about how to do this."

The two leaders emphasised the removal of "hateful and radical content", from the Internet, offering no definitions for either category.

The plan appears to guarantee a bright future for spinmeisters, saying that it would "support the efforts of civil society organisations to promote alternative and counter-narratives". Whether these would include efforts of the sort recently indulged in by lobbyist Mark Textor, who was responsible for May's constant repetition of the phrase "strong and stable government" during her recent disastrous election campaign, was not made clear.

May and Macron then touched on what has been their central theme: "Work together to ensure our countries can access data for investigative purposes". Once again, there was no detail although there has been a lot of jaw recently from leaders of various countries on how encryption should be controlled.

But it is the final proposal that underlines the ignorance of the two who put their names to it: "We should work together to ensure that data and content of communications can be rapidly accessed for law enforcement across borders, wherever it is stored."

Included in this grand plan is a bid to bring US technology companies within a net so that it it possible to force them to comply with whatever plans are thought up.

As will be evident to all and sundry by now, with proposals like these, we, the public have very little to fear. It is baffling that a British leader who champions such a brilliant plan suffered a humiliating defeat in a recent election.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.