My position on privacy and cryptography
Maybe it sounds strange to begin a page entitled "My position" with quotations from someone else. However, these quotations just show that concerns about privacy, security and unreasonable acts by the authorities are not a new thing.
"I have sworn upon the
altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or
"I am of the opinion that I am the only person who decides who is allowed to read what I write - and that certainly goes for private communications. If you feel that way, too, you may
wish to avail yourself of security and privacy information as well as existing encryption software before it is too late."
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."
My position is quite simple:
Most of the world governments are verbally committed to principles similar to those stated above. In practice, however, things are quite different. Even though cryptography may be legal in your country, your use of strong cryptographic software may subject you to close scrutiny by the authorities. The fact that you are keeping information private, in many authorities' view, equates with you having something criminal to hide. On the other hand, the right to privacy is granted by most constitutions. In my opinion, the best way to conserve a right is to exercise it continuously, and openly oppose the all-too-frequent attempts by authorities to gradually reduce it into an abstract formulation without real meaning. Cryptography is an effective way to enforce privacy. The intelligent use of strong cryptography, on a regular basis and for all your information storage and transmission, enforces your right to privacy. The outlawing or restriction of the use of encryption is to be seen as a first step towards reducing the people's privacy and freedom.
The following countries have
signed the Wassenaar convention, which restrict the export of cryptographic software and mandates that cryptographic software to be exported to non-signatory countries must be made significantly easier to break than full-strength implementations:
Aside from the above restrictions, several other countries
forbid or make restrictions on the choice and/or use of
cryptographic software by private persons. A very incomplete list includes:
Other countries allow the private use of cryptography, but make it mandatory (under penalty of jail sentence in the United Kingdom, for instance) for a citizen to reveal to authorities the encryption keys used to encrypt any materials. In practice, these countries thus forbid the use of cryptography for the purpose of protecting information from the scrutiny of authorities, and assert that their citizens, in this context, have no right to keep information private.