In the United States, the Patriot Act has been a major source of controversy and division among policymakers. Most recently, the Act was debated in the US Senate with arguments centering on the lack of proof that the NSA’s data collection methods have led to the capture of any terrorist. In particular, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was vocal in his opposition to portions of the Act that allowed the warrantless collection of metadata, which includes records of who called whom and the duration of phone calls. While, the original Act enabled the NSA to collect these records without any warrants, the new compromise keeps the metadata in the hands of the private telephone companies, thereby forcing the NSA to acquire a warrant in advance.
Across the Atlantic, in Great Britain, policymakers are deliberating their own version of the Patriot Act—the Snooper’s Charter, which would require telecommunications firms to turn over specified data to the UK government upon demand. The government argues that terrorists and other bad actors might take advantage of these secure methods of communicating. The counterargument that companies are making, however, is quite simple: prove it.
Some companies like Heiress Communications find the government’s proposal to be so intrusive and unnecessary that in the event it becomes law, they are prepared to leave the UK and conduct business elsewhere. A few companies have already made the move out of London, which is a hotbed for technology and communication. This is because the new law would mandate companies that offer security related services like encryption and virtual private networks to provide a backdoor to government agencies and allow them access to those communications.
Without doubt, the evolution of technology has made it increasingly difficult for governments to be responsive to possible terrorist threats. Consequently, governments across the globe are struggling to balance the rights of individuals with the need to provide adequate protection for citizens. Nonetheless, rather than creating backdoors, which terrorists can find and exploit, government agencies should aim to improve traditional Intel practices.