The return of Preet Bharara and the men in black

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara is back and more aggressive than ever and warned at an NYU event that there are “people who want to kill everyone in this room […] In addition to all these people who for legitimate privacy reasons that all in good faith want to keep their messaging private […] There are also people who want to bring buildings down. There are people who want to destroy America. And they will take advantage of these mechanisms for communication,” as he, for the first time, got involved in debate over encrypted messaging that he says benefits terrorists. Let’s remember his famous words: “Someone once asked me, ‘What’s your jurisdiction, again?’ I said, ‘Are you familiar with Earth?”, so we can certainly get ready for the worst in the oncoming months as everyone might be scrutinized as a potential terrorist.

The core of the argument of people such as the US Attorney is that terrorists, drug traffickers, child pornographers, rapists and even murderers use encryption. So they use the Internet, dollars, public transport, and surely some of them might pay taxes. So this so-called risk of criminal activity doesn’t justify a ban of encryption, as doesn’t justify a ban of the Internet, neither, a ban of the banking and financial system, of public transport, and definitely not a ban of taxation.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin said, “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”

Encryption and anonymity are critical for protecting Internet users, and therefore, human beings in the digital age, allowing to preserve a safe, private space for free expression at a time when governments are expanding invasive surveillance worldwide. We cannot forget that to resist mass surveillance, is not merely a technical a battle, it’s also social, economic and political one. Encryption is the key to preserve and defend a free Internet, our greatest tool for emancipation. It aid us in stopping these governmental and corporate systems of violence and political oppression from growing. So instead of promoting a ban of encryption governments should promote the use of strong encryption and protect anonymous expression online.

In the other hand, the security offered by encryption is also vital for businesses that demand confidentiality in their information access or exchange. Data Protection Acts worldwide require all businesses holding data about individuals to take appropriate technical and organizational measures against unauthorized access to and use of that data, therefore, a ban of encryption is also a threat against the economies worldwide and ultimately against its central actors the consumers.

Last January, a California state legislator introduced a bill that would ban the retail sale of Smart-phones with that full-disk encryption feature—a security measure designed to ensure that no one can decrypt and read phone’s contents except its owner. The bill is the second piece of state-level legislation to propose that sort of smart-phone crypto ban, following a similar New York State assembly proposal that was first floated last year and re-introduced also in January. Both bills are intended to ensure that law enforcement can access the phones of criminals or victims when their devices are seized as evidence. Requiring that all smart-phones manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, and sold in California, to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider. If the bill passes both the Assembly and State Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, it would affect modern iOS and Android devices, which enable full-disk encryption that neither Apple nor Google can access.

Judging by these events, we can still hope and fight for the best but at the same time get ready for the worst, as the men in Black want all our communications in Red. Would you support legislation the required curtains be removed from all windows on all homes so that government officials could see inside your house to see that you are not performing illegal activities? Surly, even if you did support such a barbaric invasions of privacy in trade for a promise of added security, what you gain in false security, you would lose much more in natural freedom.


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