Internet Privacy

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The Independent Culture
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The vexed question of privacy and security on the Internet is a favourite pub conversation for computer industry workers. Although developments in the area have major implications for freedom of speech it isn't something which has cultivated popular debate, probably because too few people are intimate enough with the technology to understand what it's all about.

The problem arose with the creation of a freeware programme a number of years ago called PGP. It is a very powerful way of encrypting email messages, and the PGP website outlines the story so far. Most government officials don't seem to have any idea what to do about this sort of thing. They're upset because they think it allows criminals and terrorists easy ways to communicate securely but - given the fact that PGP already exists - it is very much a case of closing the door after the horse has bolted. As with anything technological, the issue can quickly degenerate into one of practicality. PGP is a user-friendly programme as far as industrial-strength software goes, but encrypting email requires a substantial amount of messing around, and most people inevitably decide that it's more trouble than it's worth. It's certainly something most large companies should be aware of but the practicality of email encryption for the home-user must be open to question.

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