French PM Seems To Realize Banning Encrypted Comms Could Hurt Economy, Security

Recently, French law enforcement suggested that Tor and free public Wi-Fi should be banned to help it fight terrorism more easily. The country’s Prime Minister, Manual Valls, has now stated that "a ban on Wi-Fi is not a course of action envisaged," and he’s not in favor of banning Tor, either.

The Prime Minister added that "Internet is a freedom, is an extraordinary means of communication between people, it is a benefit to the economy." He also noted that whatever measures are taken to fight terrorism have to be "effective."

Many politicians, when asking for a ban or weakening of encrypted communications, often don’t realize that these measures can have negative impact on the economy. Encrypted communications is what made e-commerce real in the first place. Without it, few people would trust sending their credit card information over the Internet, and stored credit card data would be even more exposed than it already is today, because too few companies take digital security seriously enough.

A “compromise” on encryption, as several Western governments (including the U.S.) have been asking for recently, would not just be a compromise on user privacy, but also on security itself.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, recently made it sound as if encrypted communications are harming children because predators could be talking to them over communications channels that can’t be accessed by law enforcement (thereby also implying that law enforcement should always monitor everyone’s communications on the oft chance that a predator might talk to a child).

In fact, the opposite could be true. Weak security in parental control tools or in “smart” toys are much more likely to put children in danger than having access to strong encryption ever will, because if they're hacked, they can expose everything from chats to images to sound recordings, and even the real-time location or location history of millions of children. That’s data the children themselves would perhaps never give willingly if they were to simply “talk” to predators.

These sorts of arguments keep getting repeated by some politicians, even after it has been proven that the Paris attackers didn't use encrypted communications to make their plans.

However, it’s good to see that even after the recent attacks in Paris, and despite the fact that France already passed a surveillance law earlier this year and may further extend the emergency powers soon, there are some limits to how many rights it’s willing to take from its citizens for national security reasons.


Lucian Armasu joined Tom’s Hardware in early 2014. He writes news stories on mobile, chipsets, security, privacy, and anything else that might be of interest to him from the technology world. Outside of Tom’s Hardware, he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

You can follow him at @lucian_armasu. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • alextheblue
    Sen. Feinstein is another dirtbag that's all in on mass surveillance of her citizens, warrants be damned.
  • hoofhearted
    Dianne Feinstein is the same idiot that wants to ban gun ownership in the USA, with her rationale being that this will disarm criminals.
  • Adilaris
    Good article, a much simpler way to explain it then I could have lol.
    For all the invading the NSA does, they barely ever caught anyone - so obviously secured connections aren't the problem.
  • jehanne
    Senator Feinstein's "vision" will only become true when the United States government mandates that remote monitoring devices be implanted in the necks and spines of all human beings, tracking their entire movements, conversations, and even, thoughts. Of course, these devices, to be effective, will be armed with an auto-destruct mechanism which, upon any tampering (or, perhaps, an improbable hit with a baseball), will immediately cause an implosion, causing the subject to bleed to death internally, a firm, but necessary, deterrant against anyone who would dare put their privacy (or, even lives) over the welfare and safety of young children who, by the way, would only receive their implants upon reaching puberty. In addition to these universal implants, all textbooks on elementary number theory, algorithms and/or combinatorics will be strongly censored, removing any and all references to encryption theory and/or algorithms. In addition, it would be a crime to use any "open-source" software not pre-approved by the US government. Any attempt to do so would, of course, result in the lethal activation of any implants in the vicinity of such software, as the closed-course, propriety software (developed by the NSA and FBI), would be programmed to search for any unsigned and/or digitally unauthorized software and/or modifications to such software.

    If you oppose the above, then you are a child molester and pedophile who puts your preserve desires ahead of the protection and lives of young children!!