With the attention surrounding Apple’s now dropped case against the FBI regarding unlocking a phone, now is as good a time as any to make the case for encryption.
Encryption is a concept that the paranoid love, the law-enforcement agencies hate and the regular Joes don’t care about. For long, agencies like the NSA have been going around threatening companies to hand over customer data and place backdoors in their products, but once Edward Snowden took away the fabric of secrecy they have long revelled in, a chain of events was set off. First, companies like Apple and Google, conscious of their relations with customers, started publicly refusing data requests. Soon other companies followed. But what really worried these law-enforcement agencies was when these companies actually stepped up their security game and started deploying end to end encryption.
While not being completely secure, this made it much more difficult for these agencies to do what they have been doing for years: Pay no attention to privacy issues and treat customers like a number on a chart.
While the San Bernardino Case is over, the question of law enforcement overreach and the importance of encryption is still present.
Recently, a survey was conducted about people’s opinions on the case, and whether they supported Apple or the FBI, and the majority flocked towards the FBI, not realising that they are spelling out the doom for their privacy. The survey went to show that most people don’t really understand encryption. The public doesn’t understand encryption, and the agencies take advantage of the situation and twist situations into something they aren’t.
Lets take the case of the encryption backdoor: The FBI insisted that having a specially built OS tailored for that specific phone to crack the code is not a backdoor. But who’s to say it can’t be used for other phones? Who’s to say it won’t fall into the wrong hands? Whatever you want to call it, it is still a vulnerability, but the public doesn’t understand it.
Many cite the old adage: ‘If you have nothing to hide, then there’s nothing to be scared of.’. Others say that the FBI has been doing this for decades, this is just a different playground. The FBI has always gone around knocking down doors, but this is not about knocking down doors. If you follow the analogy, this is more akin to having the FBI in your doors, listening to everything you say and watching everything we do.
Encryption should be a necessity, not a choice, because the question of privacy is at stake. You may have nothing to hide, but would you like a record of everything you do be stored on a computer somewhere?
People often don’t realize the dangers till they actually face them. Not having encryption, and having everything go through the FBI is very much akin to a digital Stasi, monitoring everything you do. Agencies may portray it as something else, but the fact is that this routine data collection is exactly that.
One may argue that this data can be used to stop potential attacks, but these agencies have never actually shown that the data they routinely collected has been pivotal in helping stop one.
Continual spying on everyone without due cause under any pretext is simply wrong. Companies should keep up on their encryption efforts and focus on deploying more secure standards in order to stay one step ahead of these agencies. They bear the responsibility of helping their users realize the importance of encryption or privacy, or these agencies will just trod over basic rights and continue spying on everyone.
Do you think encryption is important or not? Comment your views below.