Given society’s seeming decline into a “Big Brother” dystopian landscape in which governments spy on your every move under the guise of fighting terror or whatever the latest scare tactic is, personal privacy is becoming a hot topic at the moment.
With the PRISM scandal still a highly discussed issue, with more and more revelations coming out from the leaked documents everyday, as well as whistle blowers running around the world escaping men in black from acronym agencies; people are beginning to look towards encryption for privacy.
Gone are the days when you had to set up your own secure server, generate your encryption keys and share public keys with friends so you can communicate. There are now several services active (Gliph, Gibberbot, & Silent Circle to name a few), with more in the pipeline, each touting their own tagline and skillset to the masses. Kim Dotcoms’ Mega will be releasing an app in “four to six weeks”, and Heml.is is in development by one of the guys that brought us the Pirate Bay.
The main question I believe consumers will be interested in, is not a matter of how secure they are or what kind of encryption they use, but are they interoperable? Are we going to be winding up with an encrypted messaging format war?
I say Yes.
Basically we will have a popularity contest of sorts as to which network will grow the fastest and outpace the others, kind of like Myspace v Facebook. What people aren’t going to want, is having 3, 4, 5 different apps installed, just to chat with their friends because they’re on different networks. The networks will grow according to regional popularity, eventually resulting in several strong contenders. This will evolve into a couple of strong, large networks, at which point either of two things will happen; one will buy the other, or one will be abandoned. In either eventuality, the public wins as long as that one surviving entity can maintain its stance against almost guaranteed government pressure on a possible global scale.
This is of course all predicated on the idea that the public will start using encrypted messaging for their daily chatting. Given that Skype is no longer secure, and Governments are eroding our privacy one piece at a time, it’s a 50/50 shot that the idea will even pick up for the majority of people.
It is unfortunate that having encrypted messaging could potentially become a fact of life, but in the end it will lead to better privacy for the law abiding. The main thing many people say is “…but terrorists will use it too”, but unfortunately they already do. PGP encryption has been around since 1991, and is relatively easy to set up and implement on a network.
With other advances in encryption over the last decade, as well as the algorithms to make them even harder to break, and other security measures such as RSA & OTP tokens and multi-factor authentication, terrorists have had many ways to subvert the people spying on them. The fact is everything the public does is in clear text, and available around the web for governments to hoover up and read at their leisure.
It is just another necessary evil required to continue with our daily unhindered.
Personally I applaud the various efforts people are making to bring encryption to the masses. I love encryption in general, if it were implemented properly and people were educated about its use, I.D. theft would be a thing of the past. I do also believe that encryption should be part of our daily communications; the public deserves its privacy and the acronym agencies should get off their asses once in a while.