Privacy and Encryption: Lose one, lose 'em all

Privacy: a photo by alancleaver_2000

Let me start with a little imagination. An analogy, if you will.

Imagine, if you will, that you are on holiday. You want to send a “wish you were here” type message to your friend back home. You have two choices: a cheapish picture postcard, or a more expensive sealed envelope. What do you choose? If you’re like the vast majority of us, you will likely choose the postcard, for both picturesque and cost reasons.

On the other hand, let’s assume you want to send your credit card number and salary details to an insurance agency. Again, do you choose the postcard, or the sealed envelope? I will not insult your intelligence by saying what the “right answer” is. I will however allow someone else to continue this analogy on my behalf, with a slight piece of satire:

the government has announced that it will soon be mandatory to use state-approved envelopes to send all mail. these new envelopes will be entirely transparent when viewed under a federally produced lightbulb, but there is no need to worry about these lamps getting out to bad people, since it is time-tested proof that all government employees are completely honest and lack all self-serving traits present in every other human being. besides, it’s for your own good and protection! and if you have something to write that you don’t want everyone to read, maybe it’s time for that all-important self-examination to reveal your underlying paranoia complex…

(quote taken from a Slashdot comment, written by someone called CrudPuppy)

How does that make you feel? If you honestly sat down and thought about that eventuality, would you be happy about the idea of someone, anyone, being able to read your most private thoughts and words? Is it fair to expect that once it’s written down, “The Government” — whoever that may be at the time — has a right to view it? The fact is, some governments are currently attempting to change their laws to curtail the individual’s right to this sort of privacy, whether you want to believe it or not. For example, the American Wiretap Bill prohibits using emails as evidence without a warrant, but this article shows that the authorities want to read parts of such communcations without a warrant. Continue reading