Given the global nature of the Internet, decisions made by some countries affect us all. Foreign powers have already personal data stolen tied to half of all Americans. Over the past six months we have seen devastating attacks on servers large corporations and governments that continue to use unsecured email. The consequences of these attacks can last a lifetime.
For most of human history, we have felt free to confide in one another about our families, our work, our hopes and our fears. This feeling of freedom comes from knowing that once our words left our lips, they weren’t recorded.
But if nothing online is private, and every conversation today is online, no conversation is private. This would leave us two choices: either we communicate face to face, or we give up all expectation of being alone.
It is not a realistic way to live. We carry and check our phones from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. In an emergency, your phone is probably one of the first things to grab.
Just because we’ve dramatically improved the technology that allows us to communicate with people far away doesn’t mean that our privacy needs to be gone. Machines today can allow someone else to see and hear what we’re doing and what we’ve said, but that doesn’t mean they should.
This is what makes end-to-end encryption so valuable. As complex and advanced as it is, the idea behind it is thousands of years old. Early cryptography allowed people to communicate securely, but only if they had already exchanged a secret “key” in advance.
But that’s not practical in today’s world. Exchanging secret “keys” with everyone you know beforehand and tracking those keys yourself would be tedious at best. Modern technology has made this transparent. The end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp uses automatically exchanges the “key” directly on the sender’s and recipient’s physical devices and nowhere else. Each message has its own lock and key.
It’s no surprise, then, that many tech companies have added end-to-end encryption, and since the start of the pandemic, several others have made efforts to upgrade their systems in order to protect the growing volume of critical communications. digitally scrolling.
Knowing that you can communicate confidentially beyond the sound of your voice matters. It allows doctors to see patients from a distance, helps the military protect operational secrets, supports people who start businesses, and protects journalists who highlight important information. It also allows us to have the most private conversations with the people we care about, confident that we can talk to the people closest to us without worrying about someone listening.
End-to-end encryption prevents tech companies from accessing particularly sensitive information, and for good reason. In 2019, the Ministry of Justice laid charges in a case where people linked to Saudi Arabia allegedly spied on dissidents using internal access tools. With end-to-end encryption, even employees don’t have the ability to access private messages, for whatever reason. This caused frustration with Governments who want tech companies to provide private messages as part of a legal process.
Some governments are honestly trying to fight crime and see the dramatic increase in technology in our lives as a potential source of new evidence. Their criticism is that end-to-end encryption makes it harder for law enforcement to find evidence of a crime, and more difficult for businesses to monitor people’s calls and messages to refer to law enforcement. order. But it’s about looking at a problem in isolation. It was never possible or easy to access most people’s private conversations when they were happening physically rather than digitally. We should not assume that just because technology makes something easier to do, we should do it.