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Free Speech

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
encryption, pakistan



Reports Claim That Pakistan Is Trying To Ban Encryption Under Telco Law

from the yvxr-gung-jvyy-jbex dept

As various governments have tried to clamp down, censor and/or filter the internet, all it's really done is increase interest and usage of encryption tools such as VPNs. Every so often we have commenters who insist that outlawing encryption is the obvious next step for governments, though that suggests an ignorance of the practical impossibility of truly banning encryption -- which, after all, is really just a form of speech. The US, of course, famously toyed with trying to block the export of PGP in the 90s, but finally realized that it would likely lose big time in a court battle. While I could certainly see some politicians here trying to ban certain forms of encryption, I couldn't see any such effort being successful long term.

In other countries, however, they seem ready to make a go of it. Privacy International is reporting that Pakistan is trying to ban the use of encryption, including for VPNs, as part of the implementation of a new telco law (pdf) which requires telcos to spy on their customers. Obviously, encryption makes that tougher, so the response is just to ban it entirely.

But here's the big question: can any such ban really be effective? I mean, if you and I agree on using a simple cipher between us, that's "encryption," but is indistinguishable from "speech" in most contexts. That means any such ban on encryption is effectively and practically useless the moment it goes into effect. There will always be incredibly simple ways around it. Trying to ban encryption is like trying to ban language. You can't reasonably do it.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2011 @ 1:38pm

    Security

    Encryption is often used for security. Compare for instance telnet, which is laughably easy to intercept, to ssh. Compare HTTP to HTTPS. Compare "open" wireless to WPA2.

    Banning encryption will lower the security of the whole country.

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