Spreading the power of encryption to the masses

Computerworld |  Development

It is true that smaller governments and terrorists can now get strong encryption, and I think that does make a difference to the NSA [National Security Agency], and I regret that and I worry about that, but I don't know what do about that. I don't know how to give it to the public without giving it to the bad guys. But criminals can use all kinds of other technologies as well: laptop computers, automobiles, ballpoint pens. Back in the early 20th century, Bonnie and Clyde used cars more effectively than any other criminal before them, and the cops at that time were totally unprepared for that. Some police suggested that cars were a bad thing because it allowed criminals to get away easier. And cars have much more complex effects than allowing criminals to escape -- they contribute to air pollution, traffic fatalities, urban flight to the suburbs. . . . Cars have mixed effects on society, but most people are glad to have cars. Like cars, cryptography will have mixed effects on society, not all of it good, but overall people will be glad to have cryptography.

Q: Some have argued that we are living in an age of erosion. They say the real threat to privacy isn't coming from overt campaigns by the FBI or NSA, but by thousands of small decisions made in boardrooms all over the world. What's your reaction to this?

A: It is sort of like the story, the apocryphal story, of the frog in boiling water. You put the frog in boiling water and it jumps out and survives. But you put the frog in room temperature water and slowly increase the heat, it doesn't notice the incremental changes in the water and it boils to death. I think that is happening to the public. The government doesn't even have to collect information about people, they can ask the private sector to sell it to them. And more and more businesses are doing just that.

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