Prime Minister David Cameron and US vice president Joe Biden today warned international governments against compromising the openness of the Internet for reasons of security.
“We cannot leave cyber space wide open to the criminals and terrorists that threaten our security and prosperity,” said Cameron, during a brief appearance at the London Conference on Cyberspace. “But at the same time we cannot go the heavy-handed route. Do that and we’ll crush all that’s good about the internet – the free flow of information, the climate of creativity that gives life to new ideas and new movements.
"Governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship, or to deny their people the opportunities that the internet represents.”
Speaking to the conference by video link to stand in for Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Biden followed a similar theme. “In our quest for security, we cannot sacrifice the openness” that makes the Internet so powerful, he said.
“Those who want [the Internet] to be closed to be freedom of expression, but open for business will run into problems,” Biden said. “There isn’t a separate social Internet, political Internet and economic Internet. They are all one – it’s simply the Internet.”
To coincide with the conference, Internet freedom organisation the Open Rights Group issued a statement calling on Cameron to address domestic policy that it says is hampering the government’s desire to promote freedom of expression and privacy internationally.
“The government is currently considering greater controls over what legal material people are allowed to access on the Internet,” the statement asserts. “Earlier this year the Prime Minister suggested there should be more powers to block access to social media, a policy that drew praise from China and which the government swiftly backed away from. There are also plans for more pervasive powers to surveil and access people’s personal information online.”
“We call for the UK government to seize this opportunity to reject censorship and surveillance that undermines people’s rights to express themselves, organise or communicate freely. That is the only way to both enshrine the rights of citizens in the UK and to support these principles internationally.”