Encryption has never been more crucial — or threatened
Due to the global nature of the Internet, the decisions that some countries make affect us all. Foreign powers already have it stolen personal data tied to half of all Americans. We’ve seen it in the last six months destructive attacks on servers the most important companies and governments that continue to use secure email. The effects of these attacks can be lifelong.
For most of human history we have felt free to trust each other with our families, our work, our hopes, and our fears. It consists in knowing that feeling of freedom, once our words left our lips and then were not recorded.
But if nothing online is private, and now all conversations are online, no conversation is private. This would leave us with two options: Either we communicate face to face or we give up hope that we are alone.
That’s not a realistic way to live. We carry and check our phones from the time we wake up until we go to sleep. In emergencies, it’s the first thing you would catch on your phone.
Just because a lot of technology has improved our ability to communicate with people remotely doesn’t mean our privacy needs to go away. Today the machine will allow someone else to do it and see and hear what we have to say, but that doesn’t mean it is.
This makes extreme encryption so valuable. As complex and advanced as it is, the idea behind it it is thousands of years old. Initial cryptography allowed people to communicate securely, but only if they had previously exchanged a secret “key”.
But that is not practical in today’s world. It would be tedious to exchange hidden “keys” with everyone you know beforehand and keep those keys to yourself at best. Modern technology has made it perfect. WhatsApp extreme encryption automatically exchanges the “key” directly on the sender and receiver’s physical devices and elsewhere. Each message has its own lock and key.
It is not surprising, therefore, that many technology companies have added extreme encryption, and since the pandemic began, others have tried to update their systems to protect the growing volume of critical communication that is taking place digitally.
Knowing that you can communicate confidentially beyond the importance of your voice. It allows doctors to see patients from a distance, helps the military protect operational secrets, helps people build businesses, and protects journalists by disseminating important information. It also allows us to have the most private conversations with the people we are interested in, making sure we can talk to those closest to us without fear of hearing someone.
End-to-end encryption blocks particularly sensitive information from technology companies and for good reason. In 2019, the Department of Justice he filed a complaint in one case where people linked to Saudi Arabia were allegedly spying on dissidents using internal access tools. With extreme encryption, employees also don’t have the ability to access private messages, no matter what. This has caused frustration government technology companies that want to deliver private messages through the judicial process.
Some governments are honestly trying to tackle crime and are looking at the tremendous growth of technology in our lives as a potential source of new evidence. Their criticisms are that extreme encryption makes it harder for law enforcement to find evidence of the crime, and that companies find it harder to control people’s calls and messages to go to law enforcement. But this is examining a problem in isolation. It was never possible or easy to access people’s private conversations when they were physically happening instead of digitally. We shouldn’t assume that we should do technology to make something easier.