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Encryption: Is it Necessary?

applevfbi[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ncryption is a part of our daily lives, whether you like it or not. Usernames and passwords for any online account are all encrypted. But what if the government wanted to abolish it? No good can come from that.

Giving Up the Keys

When people think about encryption, they think it’s used to protect their privacy; and they’re not wrong. But encryption does more than just protect your privacy: let’s say the government passed a bill that required you to place a key to your house under a rock in your backyard, so that they can get into your house easier if there’s an emergency while you’re not in. Not a bad idea, right? But let’s say that everybody knows that there is a key in your backyard. Anyone can look for it, and it’s only a matter of time before they find it. And I, for one, am not eager to give up the keys to my private online life.

What’s happening?!

Two months ago, a federal judge had asked Apple to help access an iPhone that the San Bernardino shooter had used. The issue in this case is that creating a so called “master key,” as called by Tim Cook, would not only allow the government access to this iPhone, but all iPhones around the world.

Due to Apple’s refusal to help, the case was taken to court. The authorities argued that encryption, used by companies like Apple, made it harder to stop terrorists and other criminal activities. Apple, and other tech companies, retaliated by saying that encryption was essential to online security, and prevented users’ private data from being stolen. Although, according to MITSloan, 92% of e-consumers don’t trust online companies to keep their personal information private.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is planning to introduce a bill to Congress that would force companies to provide “intelligible information or data” or the “technical means to get it.” Many people believe that giving the government access to all data would help prevent crimes and terrorism. Others believe that it would only increase crime rates, due to the chance that criminals will be able to find the back door, or use encryption without a backdoor.

Why it Should Matter to You

Encryption is important for everyone. When you enter your credit card data online, or your social security number for your job, it’s stored away in an online database where it’s encrypted.

Let’s take for example. Your address, name, and credit card, can be stored there for faster checkout. To prevent hackers from seeing this data, Amazon automatically encrypts your data, and sets the key as your email and password. If the government went ahead and passed a bill requiring companies to provide backdoors or keys to encryption, the government would be able to access your name, address, and credit card (and all other data you have stored), without your email and password. Sure, the government could check on suspected terrorists’ recent purchases or addresses, but so can third parties. Even if the backdoor wasn’t readily available on Amazon, it can still be accessed through the government. But, as we all know, the government can’t be hacked. The IRS, one of the government’s most feared branches, was hacked just as recently as February.

In an interview with Mr. Parise, who teaches America’s Response to a Changing world here at TA, we discussed students’ responses to the Apple v. FBI case. 70% of his students took Apple’s side.

“We have more concerns over the protection of our data than our fears of terrorism. It’s like locking the door; it’s the safe, prudent, secure thing to do.”

In a Washington Post poll, Americans between the ages of 18-29 had a higher percentage that preferred privacy from the government than any other age group.

“Primarily because, almost all of them have a smartphone, with social media and email accounts, and have a sense of ownership over those things. The things you do on those types of devices are not an open book. People in general have a natural desire for privacy.”

If people have a natural desire for privacy, should it not be included in our rights? Well, according to the Supreme Court, it is. The Fourth Amendment is part of this; that the government can’t search us, or our property, without “probable cause,” or a warrant. So isn’t what the NSA is doing, as well as the proposed anti-encryption bill, against the Constitution?

Encryption protects not just your email, phone, and passwords, but also all your personal information. So to answer the title, yes, it is necessary, and it’s up to us to protect it. 

Tell us what you think:

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  1. Charlie lees Charlie lees May 17, 2016

    Great article!
    Good job at staying objective from the topic and stating the facts.

  2. Cove Cove May 18, 2016

    Very helpful and cool

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