By Mitchell Garrett
Encryption is everywhere.
It’s the only thing preventing our Facebook messages from being as public as our status posts.
Our bank accounts use it so we can do online banking from anywhere, checking our balance or making payments from our phones.
Of course, the downside with privacy is that either everyone has it, or no one does.
In a world where terror attacks become increasingly more common, government officials across the world are concerned that without the option to access private chat messages, it could become a channel for organizing future attacks.
The recent Charlie Hebdo related shootings in Paris, France, sparked the debate on what actions need to be taken to keep us safe. Communications was the primary focus.
Currently, if the chat is encrypted, there is really nothing most governments can do. Good encryption makes messages practically impossible to decipher. The solution to this problem is to outlaw end-to-end encryption.
The exact details are likely to change several times over the course of the legislation’s development, but it is currently gaining steam and support in the United Kingdoms.
England’s Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed the “Snooper’s Charter,” which would outlaw encryption that could prevent the U.K. government from monitoring digital communication, and allow them the legal right to do so.
It’s still something we should know about here in the United States, because there is a lot of support to push that same legislation through the United Nations as well.
I talked to a student on campus — who is going to go to a university to study cryptography — what he thought about the charter.
Cryptography is the applied study of encryption. Zachary Cepeda, from Hutchinson, is a computer science major, and works primarily in encryption.
He thinks that the idea is really dangerous for free speech, and that it would be completely ineffective.
“We would have to understand that nothing was private anymore, even more than it is now. Everything we do online would be public, not just to the government, but to a stranger connected to the same coffee shop Wi-Fi.”
The law would stop a type of encryption often used by mobile devices, he said.
“We will be taking away people’s rights, but terrorists could always just use a different type of encrypted communication that this bill doesn’t block,” he said. “It wouldn’t accomplish anything.”