Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Encrypting Data?

I read that the FBI doesn't want Google or Apple to encrypt data on phones by default. Their reasoning is that it makes it harder for them to track evil doers. I do understand their concerns but I don't believe in their solution: no encryption, or give them keys to decrypt. It's not that I distrust the police or security forces or believe criminals should be able to get away with their crimes, but if my data can be decrypted by one group then there's a good chance it can be decrypted by others (backdoors can and will be exploited). I don't encrypt my data to hide it from the law; I encrypt it to stop it getting into the hands of criminals and people who could use it against me or others!  And if we're not allowed to encrypt phones then what's next? Laptops? Cloud?

Unencrypted data may make their job easier, but surely they do detective work too? Just imagine if the FBIs approach had been enabled decades or even centuries ago. Letters couldn't go into envelopes or envelopes could be opened at any time (probably happened/happens today anyway); it would be illegal to write in anything other than plain English or natural languages (no codes); presumable all of your data would be easily accessible (no bank vaults, or their codes would have to be available to the police without a warrant!) The latest Sherlock Holmes stories would be very mundane as he'd just need to access the criminals' documents to discover their evil plans.

The reality is that encryption of data, hiding of that data, has always happened. Whether it's Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Dancing Men, the Germans during WW2, the Romans, there are countless examples of coded information being used for one reason or another. And good detective work, aided by people in the field, has always been at the heart of the solutions. I don't want criminals to have access to my data and if that means the police need to do a bit more work then so be it.

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