If You’ve Got Nothing to Hide

Recently the Obama administration has been trying to require all Internet communication companies such as Skype to place back doors into their protocols. These back doors are to be used for law enforcement personnel to eavesdrop on conversations. Obviously the standard mantra of our government is, “if you’ve got nothing to hide you shouldn’t be worried.”

Well there is another danger in placing back doors into communication software as Bruce Schneier brings up:

These laws are dangerous, both for citizens of countries like China and citizens of Western democracies. Forcing companies to redesign their communications products and services to facilitate government eavesdropping reduces privacy and liberty; that’s obvious. But the laws also make us less safe. Communications systems that have no inherent eavesdropping capabilities are more secure than systems with those capabilities built in.

Any surveillance system invites both criminal appropriation and government abuse. Function creep is the most obvious abuse: New police powers, enacted to fight terrorism, are already used in situations of conventional nonterrorist crime. Internet surveillance and control will be no different.

Official misuses are bad enough, but the unofficial uses are far more worrisome. An infrastructure conducive to surveillance and control invites surveillance and control, both by the people you expect and the people you don’t. Any surveillance and control system must itself be secured, and we’re not very good at that. Why does anyone think that only authorized law enforcement will mine collected internet data or eavesdrop on Skype and IM conversations?

Any lock can be bypasses. The best option is to have the fewest doors possible. Ideally you have no doors to enter at all. By requiring yet another door our government is purposely requiring these protocols to be less secure. Of course this law is meant to protect them (government) not us so they don’t care.

One thought on “If You’ve Got Nothing to Hide”

  1. Schneier makes the important point, that _everyone_ has something to hide from _somebody_. Most often for perfectly legitimate and even legal reasons. In fact, many times, the law (often justly) _requires_ us to actively hide certain information from everyone but those specifically permitted to know it.

    A hole is a hole.

    It isn’t just the paranoid/anarchist/minarchist/libertarian wing that ought to be standing in opposition to this. It’s everyone with a fiduciary or professional duty of confidentiality, and everyone with an identity worth stealing.

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