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The Dumb Debate Over Encryption

As terrorists remain active, governments continue to blindly push for insecure encryption.
The terrorist attacks in Paris couldn’t have come at a worse time for Internet privacy advocates. Shortly after the attacks, anti-encryption proponents in the United States redoubled their efforts.

They used the same argument as always.

Encryption threatens the safety of the U.S. by allowing criminals and terrorists to hide their communications from the law enforcement.

They overlooked the same flaws in this plan as always.

Encryption protects everyone’s financial and personal data safe from thieves and snooping NSA agents. The amount of data already available to law enforcement is overwhelming and impractical. Criminals can simply create their own encryption tools to bypass anti-encryption regulations. The actual number of cases in which investigations are stumped by encryption is minuscule (a hundred out of tens of thousands).

If anti-encryption laws pass, the majority suffer to be protected from the minority. But if you consider the fact that that minority can still use custom or non-American encryption, then the majority suffer to placate the fallacies of the tech-incompetent.

Nevertheless, government officials continue to push to force technology companies to build backdoors into their products for intelligence purposes. With the shock of the attacks in Paris still fresh in our minds, these “representatives” use tragedy as weapon to support their flawed views. The worst part is that, much like the yellow journalism that followed, the attack was weaponized long before investigations could determine if the terrorists used encryption to evade scrutiny. Because they could not find any legitimate, real-life example of the misuse of encryption, they flocked to Paris like flies to honey.

As it turns out, Paris was another poor support for the anti-encryption argument. During the manhunt in the week following the attacks, investigators discovered that the participants and organizers of the strike were careless and did not use encryption in much of their communications. In fact, their close physical locations to each other made physical meetings a likely primary mode of conversation. Despite the fact that the digital trail was not scrambled, French law enforcement failed step in, even with warnings from Turkish officials concerning one of the suspects.

This outlines the major problem with our government’s current approach towards digital surveillance and “big data”: it wants to bite off more than it can possibly chew. Even as U.S. intelligence demands more information, hackers continue to breach ridiculously insecure government systems. To those officials who want to get our data to keep us safe: why can’t you first keep your own data safe?


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