One week after the terrorist attacks claimed 130 lives in the heart of Paris, criticism of monitoring email and online Internet messages fell silent. Criticism had been considered improper. Dangerous. Even within leftist parties in Switzerland, who fought against a legislative arsenal of universal communication surveillance approved by the parliament on Sept. 25.
Too many emotions. Too many terrible images. Too many deaths for nothing. Example? The calls this week in France to expose the six representatives who were opposed to the exceptional measures taken in the three-month state of emergency. Example? The CIA director’s attacks on Edward Snowden — the man who denounced the United States when the National Security Agency deviated from its usual practices to spy on citizens — suggesting that Snowden was to blame for faulty surveillance of extremists.
Paradoxically, the only remaining criticism of this wholesale surveillance is that from cybersecurity specialists. However, this denunciation of Big Brother is far more than mere criticism by cybersecurity experts.
No, the problem with recognizing terrorist attacks was not missing information, but the failure to use information that the authorities already had. Yes, “The Islamic State will continue to use cryptic communications, in the same manner that it will continue to have access to arms,” said the founder of ProtonMail, an encrypted email service.* Yes, it remains easier to adopt intrusive surveillance laws that strengthen the weak and scattered forces of cyber police in Swiss cantons.
Even this view of the wise men of the Web does not exist. “You can’t imagine the number of citizens that since last week demand that I control all numerical domains,” remarked Pierre Maudet on Friday, at a cybersecurity forum.
*Editor’s note: ProtonMail is a free and open-source web-based encrypted email service founded in 2013 and based in Geneva, Switzerland.