The Register has a great example of European inadequacies and worrying authoritarianism. State authorities installing trojans on peoples' PCs to enable remote searches. I presume that the same philosophy would be applied to smartphones as well.
Luckily, the concept fails on so many practical and technical levels, we probably don't need to get too worked up about it just yet - although continued vigilance against creeping State invasion of data privacy is pretty important.
Some obvious flaws in the concept:
- How this software is installed on PCs in the first place
- PC security software
- Separate hardware firewalls (eg in corporate networks - I can just imagine them being reprogrammed to allow external agents to peer inside PCs on the LAN)
- Threat of these trojans being subverted by other malicious users
- How this would work with roaming users - would the government have the right to snoop on visiting Chinese users' PCs? Or would your PC's data continue to be visible when you were outside Europe?
According to El Reg, it is the Germans who are most keen on this approach.
Of course, here in the UK, if the government wants to know what's on your PC or BlackBerry, (for example if you're an opposition MP receiving embarassing leaks), it's much easier just to take a leaf out of Robert Mugabe's book and arrest them and physically seize their computers and phones.