A debate, going on in the quasi-private and well-catered halls of government-corporate collusion, has reached the post-smoldering stage. It’s now a virtual forest fire in full public view.
It pits government spies against corporate cannibals and is about the often misunderstood and somewhat tedious issue of encryption.
Like so many “raging debates” among the powerful, this one is more important to most of us not for what is being said but what is assumed.
To believe the corporate PR releases (and some media reports), the two sides are debating the balance between protecting our rights and protecting our lives.. In fact, the debate is more about how to effectively manage spying: the government says it wants companies to give it the codes to crack all encryption while the companies are devising ways to make sure the government has a court order, or inter-agency collaboration, before doing that.
Nobody is saying the obvious: cracking encryption to steal data is unconstitutional and illegal and this debate is taking place at a moment when massive movements of protest are convering the streets of our cities organized through social media and cell-phone communications. In a sense, this is the fight over how they’ll cross the line we can’t let them cross.
The term “encryption” is now ubiquitous. Most of us have heard it, many understand it in principle but few know much about.