Without strong encryption, government can pretty reliably track virtually every personal datum we possess

War is peace. Peace is war. To protect your privacy, we must be able to read all your private communications.

Remember Big Brother in George Orwell's 1984? Big Brother didn't have a problem turning reason and truth upside down in the pursuit of a paranoid's utopia. And the sworn protectors of that cradle of freedom and democracy, the US, don't seem to be far from offering the same kind of "logic".

America's top law-enforcement officials are making the case that to protect citizens and their privacy, the government needs to keep away from them the tools that assure privacy.

After all, we citizens may be up to bad things. We may be criminals or terrorists; so, reason the Feds, they need to be able to read what we write, and read what's written about us, whenever they think that's a good idea.

That's why the top US government agencies don't want to see public use of strong encryption on the Internet. The Feds want encryption restricted to forms that are feeble, or which contain an "escrow key" that allows the government (or anybody else who gets their hands on the escrow key) to snoop.

Uncle Sam wants to be able to see things we write - love letters, cheques, credit card transactions - and things that are written about us on health records, legal records, job-performance reviews, letters from Mum and from others, who may be a whole lot more interesting. All of these can now pass over the Net.

It gets even scarier than Big Brother sifting through stuff that may be a bit embarrassing. Big Brother was a two-bit piker compared with modern surveillance. Technologies exist today that can correlate seemingly unrelated data points about individuals against larger sets of data generated by whole populations. Such correlations can use seemingly innocent data, such as credit card purchase records, to reveal, with a high probability, information such as our political leanings, sexual orientation, income and current whereabouts.

Without strong encryption, people in the government (and elsewhere) can pretty reliably track virtually every personal datum we possess. If we're even minimally engaged in the current world, our unencrypted records make our lives an open book. Never in history has humankind been so widely and voluminously recorded, transcribed, invoiced, debited, credited, cross- referenced, databased and archived.

If you live in the West, somewhere other than, say, a camouflaged bivouac 40 miles outside of Nowhere, North Dakota, your daily acts result in an electronic trail that, with a little manipulation, can yield the most private details of your life.

Why worry, you say. I'm a law-abiding person, with nothing to fear. Oh, really?

People in government are people just like us. They can make mistakes, just as we do. They can even be the heinous criminals they're supposed to be protecting us against.

In fact, in my lifetime, American government officials at every level, the presidency included, have shown themselves not to be above using the powers of their office for personal gain.

A future Richard Nixon would not have to rely on breaking into the opposition's offices. Every opponent's campaign plan (not to mention their health and legal records) would be no farther away than the nearest escrowed encryption key.

And even if the Feds keep their noses clean, their insistence on second- class encryption for the masses means the bad guys, who, by definition, aren't particularly worried about ethical constraints, will find it easier to get hold of the same sort of information.

It doesn't help that the agencies which are railing loudest against strong encryption are the very ones that have the least oversight in the US federal pantheon. The National Security Agency is one of the least publicly accountable organisations in Washington. The shadowy NSA loudly makes the case for strong encryption to be blocked, lest terrorists and the ever-to-be-mistrusted "foreign element" get their blood-drenched mitts on it.

Am I missing something here? Does the NSA really think that making something illegal will keep terrorists from using it? That the same individuals who bomb department stores, blow airliners out of the sky and spray men, women and children at ticket counters with machine-gun fire, are going to be deterred from encrypting their messages because the Feds thinks it's a good idea?

And why do I think that making strong encryption illegal will keep only the law-abiding from using it?

But maybe these guys really believe their own logic. I should take a leaf from Big Brother's book.

Psst ... hey spooks! Stronger encryption is weaker. A weaker threat to privacy, that is. Encrypt it, and pass it onn

cg@gulker.com

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little