UK Data Spying Case Shocks and Outrages Tech Community

October 28, 2016 - 2 minutes read

snowden

While much of the app development community assumes the Snowden disclosures only really applied to NSA operations in the US, the UK was also found to be conducting illegal data collection operations. From 1998 to 2015, the UK’s collection program collected massive amounts of private data including location and call records from every phone in the country.

Similar to the US, the UK’s program has been able to escape virtually all repercussions of illegal activity, and in spite of a court ruling against them have been able to continue operating more or less exactly the same. The only difference is that now they’re required by the ruling to “include more disclosure on the underlying policies,” which effectively means “you have to make what you do public… but not really, just don’t make anyone mad again.”

The ruling is particularly contested in light of the fact that Edward Snowden, the whistleblower responsible for making this and similar programs public, is still living in exile in Russia.

App developers and technologists have initiated a widespread demand that president Obama pardon Snowden as one of his final acts before leaving office. However, the president’s statements about tech and privacy in the past don’t create the impression that this is something he will follow through on, although most of us in the app development community would love to be proven wrong on that. Overall, the Democratic stance on privacy and data “spying” has been similar to the UK court order: apologize, then move forward as if nothing happened.

For techies and app developers in London and worldwide, the whole affair has been a disappointing display of the “dark side” of mobile products, which have changed and improved lives at the same time as enabling an unprecedented level of government surveillance.

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