CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Modern capitalism is at a moral dead end. And the bosses are to blame (Observer)

Will Hutton argues that capitalism will continue to be demonised while our CEOs -- so well paid that they occupy a different world from the rest of us -- refuse to put their own corrupt house in order.

2. Can religion rescue Dave's Big Society? (Independent on Sunday)

David Cameron wants a return to volunteering, but a weakened church, the welfare state and Thatcherism make that a tall order, writes Cole Moreton.

3. The Big Society is irresistible, but do we have the time? (Sunday Telegraph)

One reason that we evolved representative democracy is the difficulty of making the attractive ideal of politically engaged citizens into a reality, says Alasdair Palmer. Staying in a job while being a good parent is demanding enough for most people.

4. Educating children should not be for profit (Observer)

Hundreds of companies already profit from our education system, says the paper's editorial, but learning has always been separate from the forces of the free market, and that's how it should stay.

5. Mandelson is losing the spin game (Sunday Times)

The editorial argues that the tide has turned this week, and discusses factors that might have led to the Times/YouGov poll today showing the Tories with a 10-point lead.

6. David Cameron as Gene Hunt? Labour must be living life on Mars (Sunday Telegraph)

Matthew d'Ancona agrees, saying that besides the wounds that Labour inflicted on itself -- including the woeful winning campaign poster from a public competition -- the past week has been the Tories' best in a long while.

7. One of the above (Independent on Sunday)

The Independent on Sunday launches a campaign to get people to vote, amid expectations of a lower than ever turnout, reflecting the public's antipathy -- a positive hostility stronger than mere apathy -- towards politicians.

8. The tower and the Olympic curse (Sunday Times)

Dominic Lawson adds his voice to the cacophony of disapproval for Anish Kapoor's Olympic tower. In its bombast and excess, he says, the monument is in perfect harmony with what the Games have become.

9. Actually, Ms Lumley, you should apologise, too (Observer)

Joanna Lumley is right to be angry at the treatment of Gurkhas, says Nick Cohen, but she must understand that her campaign has flaws, too.

10. Wrong again, m'lud -- and now you're getting my back up (Sunday Times)

Mr Justice Eady has been criticised for his judgment in the Simon Singh case. This is not the first time, says Rod Liddle, yet Eady is often the high court judge presiding over media cases, and wields greater influence than he should.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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