How Scotland can protect itself from GCHQ spying by going open source

One of the key lies out out in last years referendum was that we couldn’t exist securely without the British Security Services (the ones that brought you extraordinary rendition).

In a key move Alistair Davidson introduces his new report for the Common Weal think-tank, ‘Scottish Sovereignty in the age of Mass Surveillance’, arguing for a transition in Scotland to open source software to protect itself from GCHQ spying. You can read the full report here.


Comments (17)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Burnett says:

    Alasatair says GCHQ *may be* spying on Scottish ministers – we all know there is no ‘may be’ about it though!

    This is good, in the meantime here are some up to date anti-tracking tools you can use at home.

    I have read the paper, which is absolutely sound. In essence however, and to put it simply, is one thing that we will be asking for is that the administration stops using Windows? It’s quite a technical paper, and a technical argument for many . . . . but I am behind it, as I am behind open source in all walks of life.

    What can a regular person can do to help promote these ideas?

    1. Richard says:

      Yes, “one thing that we will be asking for is that the administration stops using Windows”.

      “What can a regular person do to help promote these ideas?”

      Just a couple of sites to investigate:

  2. Fran says:

    A search engine that doesn’t track you:

  3. Fearchar says:

    In other words, any time that, say, China or Iran wants information about people in the West, all they have to do is obtain access through one of the thousands of accounts mentioned – without even the need to expend budgets or hardware on spying directly: it’s all been done for them!

  4. Alan says:

    This is naive and confused. Using open source by itself doesn’t solve anything. He seems to be a bit muddled about whether he’s promoting a business opportunity or security. The only way you can secure against such an adversary is to use good encryption and be very careful. There’s lots of bad encryption and people are endlessly sloppy. Some products to consider: DuckDuckGo, TextSecure/RedPhone (Signal), ProtonMail or MailPile (when it’s ready), VeraCrypt, QubesOS. But you’ll need more than decent products. You need skills and a healthy level of paranoia.

    1. stu says:

      Was going to write the same, Open Source is not the answer and certainly privacy is not the priority problem. Consider what the signal intelligence would do/is doing in foreign countrys today. Follow the money, enforce a Full Fiscal Reporting system, decapitate COSLA and have Hollyrood responsible for all spending in Scotland. The way we win indyref2 by proving straight books on our countries finances – we will win over the ‘c’onservative not unionist votes.

      1. Alan says:

        Surveillance and the economic system go hand in hand. See this essay by Bernard Harcourt. He has a book out in the fall that covers this in much greater length. His early book on ‘free’ markets and incarceration is also essential reading.

  5. Fran says:

    And for secure email

  6. leavergirl says:

    Alistair, please film in a quiet environment next time. I just could not hear you amidst all the background noise. Will have to read the paper instead. 🙂

    1. Brian Stogie says:

      In fact it’s the exciting dynamic electronic noises added by the editor to the soundtrack that compete with the dialogue. Maybe it sounds cool on studio speakers, but my little tablet speakers make it a battle to listen.

  7. bringiton says:

    My skills are as bit rusty but I seem to recall that the intelligence communities had access to all the encryption algorithms and could pretty well decypher anything they wanted to.
    Having the technical ability to do something and the legal entitlement are very different things however.
    In the UK,our state and it’s clandestine agencies are completely unaccountable to anyone and this is the core issue which is especially important when that state is more concerned with controlling it’s population through surveillance and propaganda.
    Don’t publish anything on the internet that you don’t want someone else to record and potentially used against you.

  8. G says:

    Security services are accountable to the Parliament, via the Intelligence and Security Committee, and obviously to the PM. Now we all know there are multiple issues with this accountability, but these are very difficult to work through given the obvious need for secrecy.

    But the argument that the Scottish Government and parliament should be immune from security service scrutiny is daft. The SNP are a party of internal dissent to the Union, so it goes without saying that the security services will see them as a legitimate threat to the peace and security of the UK. The answer to this is not to be paranoid and try and stop them spying, but to be entirely open and transparent so there is nothing to hide and to advocate democratic means for independence.

    As for spying on parliamentarians in general, it’s entirely possible for a politician to be an agent of a foreign power or to have affairs with those who are – Profumo for example., so I can’t see how you can oppose this on principle.

    1. Alan says:

      That sounds like “a nothing to hide then nothing to fear” argument which has been debunked numerous times e.g. here

      1. G says:

        No it’s not. It’s an argument that the security services have a legitimate interest in any threat to the UK state, and that includes the SNP.

        1. Alan says:

          I have no doubt the establishment feel threatened by the SNP. But how can a democratically elected representatives of the people be considered a legitimate targets of the security services? That’s a deep perversion of democracy. What you are justifying is a police state.

          1. G says:

            Hardly, I’m merely suggesting that spying on people who are committed to breaking apart the UK is a legitimate activity for the security services.

            As I pointed out previously, just because someone is democratically elected does not mean they do not represent a legitimate threat to the UK. John Profumo was an MP, and there were Sinn Fein MPs at a time when the IRA were active.

  9. Shaunoftheundead says:

    Going to open source sounds good, if your an non it professional or use it at home, the reality is different and would entail lots of money.
    The problem with open source are that the training costs for non it staff for even an organisation like NHS Scotland or local councils are horrendous. Going from Xp to Windows 7 was bad enough, going to Linux would cripple it departments, having to deal with endusers raising support calls, relating to using a new system and issues with the migration to Linux. Or cost a lot in hiring external contractors to provide additional support. It departments would need all of their staff undergo retraining to be able to support Linux.

    The other issue is that the systems which run on Windows are designed for windows, even to get them to be compliant for windows 7 was a lot of work, involving external suppliers and development teams.
    To do this for Linux would require complete rewriting of the software to be compliant.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.