Why privacy matters: For the masses
Over the past few weeks, I'm sure that many of you have heard the mutterings of the FBI vs. Apple case regarding unlocking the iPhone of a dead terrorist. This story has polarized a good percentage of the populace with many taking one side or the other. Even still, there are many of you who just don't care, you don't understand why this issue has ballooned to the level it has and why this type of thing matters.
I could get into some long drawn out explanation on the legalese behind the issue but I won't. I could also get into some complicated technical explanation about how math can't be regulated, but many of you would just get bored and stop reading.
Personally, I believe that the heart of this whole encryption debate is summed up in the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin:
“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
Disclaimer! I write this as someone who strongly believes in helping law enforcement have all of the tools that they need in order to catch the real bad guys. But...I also recognize that we have handed over more and more freedoms over the past decade and a half than we truly realize.
When it came out that the NSA was spying on the American public with a big complicated program that no one could have ever imagined existed, we were all shocked and appalled. But after the initial outrage from the populace, that whole issue faded from public sight.
You see, that's one of the problems with our society. We are easily distracted by shiny objects.
Providing a mechanism to get into encrypted devices is something that we can't allow ourselves to be distracted from. Why? History has told us that these types of mechanisms end up helping the bad guys more than the good guys.
This type of system won't help us catch terrorists, it also won't help us stop horrible things from happening on a grand scale. Why? Simple, the bad guys will use devices that aren't susceptible to these mechanisms. Encryption isn't something that we can just magically open in all instances. True encryption will protect those who implement it properly, i.e. the guys who really want to hide their stuff.
All that will be accomplished in creating such a mechanism for our everyday personal devices, is that we will be handing over another freedom that we will never get back. A freedom that will take us further into a world that we don't want to live in. The argument has been made that this is the same as someone searching your house with a warrant. I don't agree. Data is valuable, and dangerous. Our personal devices are filled with data in a way never before seen in the history of our world. The amount of information that can be gleamed from a personal device makes what you have in your home look paltry by comparison.
You may not think that this would ever affect you in a negative way, I mean... you're not a terrorist right? You're not a bad guy. But let me ask you a question.
How would you feel if those nude selfies you took ended up all over the internet? Oh, you didn't realize that encryption protected you from that risk? Well... it does, it keeps your nude selfies safe and your privacy intact.
On a more serious note, many of us live our entire lives with our devices. We integrate these devices into every aspect of our personal life and share very personal experiences with and through these devices with those we love. We do our work on these devices. We organize our lives on these devices. These devices are an extension of our bodies and our minds!
Remember that the next time that you think that this issue doesn't affect you.
Please don't let this encryption debate fade from the public's eye. Tell the people who can make a difference to stand up for your rights. Democracy is hard, but we have to do it.