In my recent blog-posts I heavily argued against key-escrow, an encryption mechanism that provides a government or law-enforcement agencies an additional key to encrypted user communication or data. This debate originally surfaced in 1993, known as the Clipper-Chip Debate, and quickly disappeared again when the Clinton-administration realized the protest they were facing. Today, the debate is back, advocated by law & order politicians who fancy Internet surveillance and censorship. The Washington Post just published an article against such proposals, giving one of the best arguments against key-escrowing I have heard in the entire debate so far:
“Strategically, the interests of U.S. businesses are essential to protecting U.S. national security interests. After all, political power and military power are derived from economic strength. If the United States is to maintain its global role and influence, protecting business interests from massive economic espionage is essential. And that imperative may outweigh the tactical benefit of making encrypted communications more easily accessible to Western authorities.”
We all know that the Internet is not secure because it was never designed to be. Experts are still waiting for ‘the big one‘, a massive data breach bigger than the Sony hack, the recent attack on the German parliament or the recent exploitation of Government official data-sets in the USA. Those attacks are possible because of weak security and often a lack of encryption. Therefore it is imperative that as many users as possible, companies, agencies and governments, adopt encryption. This makes the Internet more secure and helps to protect the privacy of billions. Good encryption reduces the dangers of cyber-crime and data-theft because even if intruders can steal data, they most likely can’t use it if the encryption is in tact. If we allow backdoors into our encryption systems (like the escrow system) and thereby weaken the security mechanism, the whole effort of cyber & internet security is fundamentally flawed. Making the Internet more secure for all of us, and that means the entire Internet population, IS the greater good compared allowing law-enforcement agencies access to private communication. It is a simple utilitarian calculation: more people benefit from secure encryption systems: business, the government agencies that store citizen data, and billions of Internet users. The good fundamentally outweighs the bad. It is a moral imperative.