HardCopy Issue 71

Security and privacy are two sides of a coin that has long bugged our society. On the one hand most of us consider that we have a right to a private life, and indeed Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly states that “No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.” The right is implicit in the American Constitution, while Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is more pragmatic in that, though explicitly stated, the right is moderated by the needs of a “democratic society” with regards to national security and crime prevention. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the situation in the UK is less clear, particularly since the fiasco that is the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (aka the ‘Snooper’s Charter’).

In practice there has always been some give-and-take. We have accepted since the 1920s that our security services can intercept private telephone conversations once they have obtained a warrant, while the police have been able to search a private property on production of a warrant for several centuries now. However, modern technology has upset the apple cart. These days most of us happily sign away our privacy with a single click and a resigned acceptance of the implications.

Some take the attitude that privacy is only of concern if you have something to hide, or go along with Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems when he said: “You have zero privacy anyway – get over it.” However even they would be reluctant to hand out their credit card details, or their passwords, to all and sundry.


The problem for security services is that accessing the information they are convinced they need is becoming increasingly difficult, which has resulted in ever more persistent calls to legislate for our data to be stored in an accessible form. The problem for us – even for those of us who have nothing to hide – is that such moves can only make our data more vulnerable, and our privacy harder to protect.

Such considerations are particularly relevant to data that is stored in the cloud. If your provider is an American company and your data is stored in a server-farm located in the UK but might be backed up or routed through another in Singapore or Sydney, then access could be subject to the laws of four different countries. And if the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ continues unchanged, then the UK could become the weakest link.

Ultimately the cloud is an international resource, and such matters can only be resolved through international discussion and agreement. Only once that happens can we start thinking about taking back control of our online privacy and identity.

Articles for this issue

Visual Studio 2017

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Tim Anderson

The latest version of Microsoft’s flagship development suite is here. Tim Anderson gives it the once-over.

Managing the Application Lifecycle

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Simon Bisson

Can Visual Studio 2017 help you get started with Application Lifecycle Management?

Secure and Legal

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Mary Branscombe

What can you do to keep your data secure and your applications legal when you’re operating in the cloud?

Intel AI Day

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Kay Ewbank

Kay Ewbank investigates Intel’s recent excursions into Artificial Intelligence.

Straight talking 71

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Tim Anderson

Are you still using Visual Basic? Tim Anderson suggests it’s time that you switch.

And another thing 71

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Jon Honeyball

Jon Honeyball sets his sights on UI design, release schedules and the importance of surround audio to VR.

Short cuts 71

Published: May 10, 2017 | Author: Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens takes a sideways look at the world of IT.