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.

Filed Under: encryption, pakistan


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  1. identicon
    Common Sense, 29 Jul 2011 @ 7:07pm

    Pakistan is not a free nation. Pakistan hangs people on suspicion of "blasphemy" or "sexual immorality."

    If their legal system can send people to the gallows for questioning ancient superstition then it is more than capable of enforcing a very vague "anything else" clause against anyone who the secret cyberpolice believed to be trying to engage in clever circumvention.

    Unfree nations do not have loopholes and safe harbors.

    Soviet era dissidents didn't have that luxury either. If they didn't like you then there was always something or another on the books enabling them to do basically whatever they wanted.

    Arguing over what is and isn't within the bounds of technical language is meaningless when the police can accuse a person of doing something "they shouldn't" and which the police "don't like" and be assured that guilt will be rubber stamped by a kangaroo court.

    In unfree countries you have no rights to begin with, only temporary privileges.

    An unfree nation moving against encryption will not afford users any sort of due process by adhering to what is and isn't strictly mentioned by the law.

    Nations with a lack of due process come down on anyone who violates the spirit of the law, whereas we in free nations exonerate those who comply with the letter of the law.

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