Liberty vs security: Baroness tears into UK government in House of Lords

Baroness Martha Lane Fox has attacked the UK government for its handling of Edward Snowden's PRISM leaks.

Speaking in the House of Lords ahead of the 25th anniversary of the birth of the World Wide Web, Lane Fox said the government had been "woefully quiet on the subject of liberty vs security."

She also criticised the UK's lack of meaningful debate around the revelations, citing the discussions that took place between technology companies and the US government at the end of last year.

In stark contrast, GCHQ agents resorted to smashing up the Guardian's hard drives and Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to intimidate the newspaper with legal threats.

In November, the heads of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 were brought before a government committee – and live television – to face a grilling over their spying activities, but Lane Fox does not consider this an adequate response.

She wasn't shy about confronting the issue of encryption, either. Amid allegations that UK and US national security agencies are actively working to overcome encryption tools, the Baroness of Soho said, "Allegations that GCHQ and the NSA worked to undermine encryption should caution anyone who trusts the web with their medical, financial or personal records."

Back in June, World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee slammed western governments for their use of Internet surveillance, accusing them of hypocrisy in the process.

"In the Middle East, people have been given access to the Internet but they have been snooped on and then they have been jailed," he said. "Obviously, it can be easy for people in the West to say, 'Oh, those nasty governments should not be allowed access to spy'. But it's clear that developed nations are seriously spying on the Internet."

Check out our three-part feature on the year the NSA hacked the world.

Image credit: Flickr (unionlearn1)