Our crowdfunding campaign to support our coverage of the encryption fight continues, and following on EFF director Cindy Cohn’s post on why you should support Techdirt, this week we have former CIA covert operative and current author Barry Eisler — an occasional Techdirt contributor whose thriller novel NSA surveillance overreach is a must read — has also shared his thoughts.
When I want to quickly and thoroughly understand an emerging topic in intellectual property, privacy, or governmental overreach?whether as a concerned citizen, or as a novelist researching a story, or both?my first stop is Techdirt. It’s not just that their coverage of these topics is so original and insightful?though it always is. It’s also that their worldview is so refreshingly nonpartisan, by which I mean they not only don’t care, but actually seem not to be aware, of what political, financial, or corporate interests their truth-telling might offend.
The government’s current attempt to dragoon Apple into subverting the encryption that keeps its users’ data private is a premier example. There is no more important issue facing our information-age society than encryption. If encryption is strong, we can have the same feeling of security about our online lives?what we say, who we associate with, where we go, what we’re thinking, etc.?that we do in our physical lives.
If, on the other hand, the government succeeds in forcing Apple to weaken the mechanisms by which its customers keep their communications and information private, those new weaknesses will be exploitable not just by the American government, but also by America’s adversaries?including online criminal groups and hackers. And we will have accepted a precedent by which the government can force a private company to divert its engineering efforts to government-ordered ends (pause for a moment to marvel that people who self-identify as “small government” conservatives actually want this to happen). It’s hard to know which would be worse?the process, or the outcome.
In short: there’s only one thing that might redress the increasing imbalance between what the government knows about us and what we know about the government: ubiquitous strong encryption. Laws are what the government shall not do. Encryption is what the government cannot do.
This is why the government is currently going to such drastic lengths to try to render encryption impotent. And naturally, it’s relying on fear and ignorance to help get the job done.
I know of no better weapon against that fear and ignorance than Techdirt?a critical resource for clear thinking, accurate information, and evidence-based arguments fatal to propaganda. I hope you’ll join me in supporting their ongoing efforts. After all, the various politicians all scrambling to become president aren’t going to help us solve this mess. In fact, as Techdirt itself has chronicled, they’re a huge part of the problem.