InfoSec 2016: Lord Hague says there is no "absolute right to privacy"

Lord Hague says there is no "absolute right for privacy" in our modern digital lives while encouraging partnerships between government and business.

Rt Hon Lord Hague of Richmond at InfoSecurity Europe 2016
Rt Hon Lord Hague of Richmond at InfoSecurity Europe 2016

Opening his day two keynote speech with a stark warning for the c-suite, the Right Honourable Lord Hague of Richmond told InfoSecurity Europe 2016 that it is of “critical economical importance” that industry leaders recognise the need to be acutely aware of cyber-threats which affect their businesses.

Hague suggested that it is crucial that business and government work together, as the answer to improving cyber-security “lay in a network of partnerships".

With technology growing at such a fast rate, security is often neglected. Referring both the Jeep and Mitsubishi hacks, Hague said that “being connected has a real price on security” - which is why as we commit more of our lives to technology we need to ensure it doesn't get disrupted by hacking.

Reassuringly, however, Hague says that we shouldn't be too proud to “move with the times” and embrace technological change. He highlighted that we have to change, but also have to defend, and it's the partnerships that can help us achieve this.

Hague took the opportunity to remind the audience that in his time as foreign minister, he was the man in control of both the Security Intelligence Service and GCHQ, which both do a lot of work with external companies to help ensure they and their products are secure. This includes working on all three major operating systems in the wild today, Apple and Android based phones and so on.

Encryption

While the relationship between government and technology companies seemed to be very positive, the relationship between citizen and government seemed a little more daunting, with Hague taking the stance of "you'll just have to trust us" when it comes to surveillance.

“The need for intelligence is crucial for law enforcement”, arguing that authorities cannot catch the ‘bad guys' without it. And unfortunately that's “bound to include some invasion of privacy”, pointing out that “terrorists, organised crime, paedophile rings” all changed their behaviours once the Snowden revelations came out in 2013.

It is this “invasion of privacy” which is why an overhaul was found to be needed in mass surveillance and that comes in the form of the IP Bill.

To describe the IP Bill as a Snoopers' Charter is "ridiculous", he said. He explained the lengthy checks senior government ministers go through to approve warrants and the amount of judicial review involved in the process - to ensure they aren't used when a less invasive surveillance measure could be used and are used only to surveil specific individuals.

Although he approves of a “healthy suspicion from the general public”, most of the public would ‘get it' if they could see the process, but obviously can't.

“The government does not want to ban encryption, we don't want back doors, we don't want weakening of encryption,” he said, adding: “We're huge advocates of all of these things.” 

Despite his pro-encryption view, however, Hague says he's coming at it from the perspective of a person who used to approve surveillance warrants and sees the kind of horrible things they could prevent.

And it is for this reason he argues that there is no “absolute right to privacy” in our modern lives. But we do have right to protections.