The UK and US governments' anti-encryption and surveillance plans are taking them down a dangerous path towards becoming police states, according Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption creator and Silent Circle chief Phil Zimmermann (pictured).
Zimmermann has announced plans to move his company from the US to Switzerland due to these concerns, reports the Guardian.
However, while his firm is looking to move to calmer waters, another called Eris, is shifting its business from the UK to the US. The US, as we have reported, is not immune from surveillance and privacy scandals, and it is these that are motivating Zimmerman.
"Every dystopian society has excessive surveillance, but now we see even western democracies like the US and England moving that way. [British society is] too accepting of surveillance," he said as he announced his plans to relocate.
"We have to roll this back. People who are not suspected of committing crimes should not have information collected and stored in a database. We don't want to become like North Korea. We are less likely to encounter legal pressures there [Switzerland] than in the US."
Zimmermann's comments refer to a fresh wave of proposed legislation in the UK and US that would increase law enforcement agencies' surveillance powers.
Within the US the proposed legislation would let law enforcement and intelligence agencies legally collect and decrypt data from smartphones and "other communications devices".
The UK government sees increasing the surveillance powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies as vital to national security, claiming they are needed for "anti-terrorism purposes".
Its plans include reworking the Data Communications Bill, commonly referred to as the Snoopers' Charter, and new legislation forcing businesses to retain key customer data, including online conversations and Facebook and Twitter activity, for 12 months.
Zimmermann highlighted apathy within the UK towards digital privacy as another key concern, arguing if left unchallenged the government's plans could cause long-term damage.
"Here [the UK] people have a comfortable relationship with their own government and maybe that's why they don't raise objection to it," he said.
"Future governments that come to power might not be so nice, and if they inherit a surveillance infrastructure then they could use this to create an incumbency that cannot be changed."
The move out of the US by Zimmermann contrasts with that of Eris Industries, a firm that makes application developer software, which said it will quit UK for the US due to the new government's plans to introduce the so-called Snooper's Charter.
It explained its decision in a blog post, saying it was following another company called In.die which is also leaving the UK.
"The re-introduction of the Communications Data Bill will include, [according to reports], a mandatory requirement to include cryptographic backdoors which can be accessed by MI5 and other government agencies. Eris Industries' business is industrial cryptography. This legislation, if passed, is likely to prevent our technology's use in myriad industrial applications which need reliable, open-source cryptography desperately if they are to stay competitive in a digital age," it wrote.
"If this Bill is passed into law, we are likely to see a mass exodus of tech companies and financial services firms alike from the United Kingdom. We are happy to lead by example...We have temporarily moved our corporate headquarters to New York City, where open-source cryptography is firmly established as protected speech.., until such time as we can be certain that the relevant provisions of the Communications Data Bill will be stricken from it."
With the US being accused of similar overreach V3 asked the firm why it felt that the need to make the move.
Eris' Casey Kuhlman CEO and Preston Byrne COO are both originally from the US, and Byrne told V3 the move is convenient in that respect. However, the issue of the Tory party and its stance on surveillance is a very strong motivator.
Byrne added that while the UK picture worsens, the US is moving away from mass surveillance and such regimes, and that he expects the support of regulators should that situation chance.
"First and foremost, we are comfortable that open-source cryptography is and will remain legal in the United States - which senior Conservative lawmakers, including the Prime Minister, have made a point of emphasising that they will attempt to ban in the UK," he said.
"Second, we also observe that the US is beginning to back away from mass surveillance. And third, we have spoken to US banking regulators about our technology and it is has been favourably received. We would therefore expect their support if US politicians attempted something as silly as the proposed Conservative policies."
"If your criteria includes respect for human rights, a stable democracy, a fast internet connection, good climate, and a friendly community of tech-savvy folks (who don't belong to the cult of Silicon Valley) with whom we can possibly work together and knock back a few beers on Fridays..." it explained.
"Our list includes Germany (Berlin, Hamburg?), Sweden (Malmö, maybe Stockholm?), Switzerland (Zurich, Geneva?), Norway (Oslo?), Denmark (Copenhagen?), and Iceland (but, boy, is it apparently cold there!)."
Zimmermann has come to blows with the US government numerous times over his career. He was the subject of a three-year criminal investigation due to alleged breaches of US export restrictions for cryptographic software. The case was dropped in 1996.
Ex-Navy Seal and Silent Circle chief executive Mike Janke urged firms to rethink their reliance on US-based IT services due to privacy concerns, during an interview with V3.
Over 140 big-name companies, academics and white hat researchers, including Apple and Google, warned US president Barack Obama to cease the government's war on encryption, or face economic disaster, in a letter to the White House last week.
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