New report: Scotland can ensure its data sovereignty with new 'national open source transition plan' after repeal of spying ban on MSPs

New Common Weal report tackles the end of the 'Wilson Doctrine' and proposes a new data sovereignty strategy for Scotland

A REPORT published today by Common Weal proposes a new plan to ensure Scottish data security and sovereignty after the revelation in the Daily Record on 24 July that the UK Government had revoked the spying ban on devolved parliaments, leaving MSPs at Holyrood open to hacking of communications by GCHQ.

The report can be downloaded here.

The report makes the case for a 'national open source transition plan' in Scotland to open source software, akin to the response of the Brazilian government after it was revealed that NSA had spied on the Brazilian national oil company, Petrobas.

It also argues that with other governments, including China, moving to open source software, there is a potential for Scotland to be a global leader in the emerging open source market, if serious government investment is provided to the industry. This would include grant funding for critical infrastructure projects, procurement legislation changed to favour open source software and amending Scottish Enterprise guidelines.

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The report, written by Open Rights Group Scotland advisory board member and IT professional Alistair Davidson, also recommends that all Scottish Government communications should be encrypted as an immediate measure in response to the end of the 'Wilson Doctrine'. Davidson argues that even if the guidelines against spying were re-introduced by the UK Government, it would not offer sufficient protection to MSPs as it is not enforceable by law.

"For the people and businesses of Scotland to know that their communications are secure, we need to move towards a situation where the computer software we use is open to public audit." Alistair Davidson, report author

Davidson looks at the implications of the Edward Snowden revelations of US and UK spying programmes, and how proprietary software has been used to create 'back-doors' for NSA spying of innocent citizens and businesses. Davidson argues that this makes internet users susceptible to attack from criminal organisations and terrorists as well. This is in contrast to open source software, in which there is no coding encryption and is publicly auditable.

Report author Alistair Davidson said: "The revelation in the Daily Record that GCHQ has authorised itself to spy on devolved parliaments and their communications with constituents is the latest demonstration that mass surveillance of the internet is a threat to our democratic process. The security of the tools we rely on to conduct politics and commerce has been undermined, as any back door available to the security services risks being discovered and used by foreign powers or criminals.

"For the people and businesses of Scotland to know that their communications are secure, we need to move towards a situation where the computer software we use is open to public audit, to ensure there are no secret back doors.

"Countries such as Brazil are making this transition, and for example the city of Munich completed a transition to auditable open source software over a ten year period. By using procurement and grant funding to prime the market, we can not only secure our nation but also position ourselves to take full advantage of huge commercial opportunities in emerging markets."

"Information...is a resource which Scotland can use, openly and collectively, to create both prosperity and real improvements in people's lives." Robin McAlpine

Common Weal Director Robin McAlpine said: "Information and data is now recognised as one of the most important resources the world has. It is a resource which Scotland can use, openly and collectively, to create both prosperity and real improvements in people's lives. At the same time it can be used maliciously and in secret in ways which harm our society. Scotland needs to act to encourage effective, positive use of data and to prevent the abuse of data."

For more Common Weal Policy work visit allofusfirst.org/policy

Picture Courtesy of CommonSpace