Encryption has played a key role in history, from the Jefferson Wheel to Alan Turing’s Enigma-breaking machine. It is vital to securing our privacy. But, worryingly, the future of encryption – the proven way to secure data – is in the balance with the coming 2016 Presidential Election. And it has Washington D.C. concerned as people like Tim Cook now even openly declare: “Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security.” The tech community starts its long slow march and starts to fight back against too much politics that have lead to nowhere.
Net Neutrality and the freedom of our Internet might have been making the loudest noises politically, but it appears encryption has been silently chipped at in the background by the U.S. and UK governments. UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, threw the first punch earlier this year with plans for his controversial “Snoopers Charter” which would effectively ban the use of it. And now, during the recent Republican debates, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said she would “absolutely” call on Apple and Google to “collaborate and cooperate” with law enforcement on encryption — to tear down the “cyber-walls.”
In the recent Republican debates, the promises to “tear down cyber-walls,” and prevent device manufacturers “using encryption by default,” may on the surface please the American public. A tough angle on crime and terrorism – unmasking the bad guys and removing the dark “hiding places” that criminals operate within.
But the truth is, removing or minimizing encryption requirements may not lead to a meaningful increase in prevention of criminal or terrorist activity – but it almost certainly will negatively impact the individuals it leaves exposed to cybercrime. Criminals will find a way to communicate and function, with or without encryption – and have been doing so for many years. But in a post-NSA age how secure will citizens’ privacy be if encryption is removed? And do discussions about “encryption bans” address the real problem in hand? And outside of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way The dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE’s unencrypted email debacle: aren’t the very people in government using encryption to communicate securely to secure us?
If anything, as criminal activity becomes increasingly connected to cyber vulnerabilities, encryption provides us a form of defense against the black arts of the digital realm. Encryption, and the security it provides to communication channels, isn’t the root of problems such as terrorism and nor is the lack of it the solution to them.
The fact is, businesses and governments aren’t secure, which poses the question: if they’re not protecting your data, and you can’t protect it yourself through encryption – where does that leave your privacy? Intellectual property, customer information and payment details, employee records – the commercial value of the data at stake is becoming staggering at a national, let alone global, level.
Before November voters need to thoroughly research who will fight for their privacy rights. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Rand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN MORE, Republication presidential candidate and Kentucky senator, has been extremely vocal about his Patriot Act fight. From his ten and a half hour filibuster in May in his attempt to block the Act from progressing, to standing outside the NSA Data Center in Utah declaring: “When I become president, we'll convert it into a Constitutional Center to study the Fourth Amendment! Bulk data collection must end!”
Or there’s Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas), another presidential contender, who imagined in his speech earlier this year an America with “A federal government that protected the privacy rights of every American.” And of course Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows - Russia standoff over Ukraine dominates Sanders says Biden can't count on him to support 'almost any' spending package compromise Sanders says Republicans are 'laughing all the way to Election Day' MORE (I-Vt.) called out: “To end the Orwellian surveillance of every American,” after famously voting against the Patriot Act. It’s the candidates like these, who are willing to fight for a county’s freedom that need to be considered.
So as we start the end of Obama’s reign of “Hope and Change,” make sure – as you ready your heart and your pen to check a specific box on your 2016 ballot – that the implications of your vote on the future of privacy and the real security of Internet business counts. Because the next administration will not only change dramatically the future of your communications and business, but also set the next 25 years of the Internet and how the next generation depends on it.
Latterell is vice president of Marketing at Open-Xchange, a company that develops and sells web-based communication, collaboration and office productivity software.