Using encryption requires individuals to put forth the effort to learn. Because people tend to be lazy they usually spend more time coming up with excuses for not learning encryption than they do learning how to use it. Ultimately the excuse they end up settling on is that they have nothing to hide. This is bullshit, of course. If they truly didn’t have anything to hide they would put Internet accessible cameras and microphones in every room of their house and allow anybody to check in on what they’re doing at any time. But they don’t.
Besides the fact that we all have something to hide there is another reason why the “nothing to hide” excuse doesn’t work. To quote Bruce Schneier:
Encryption should be enabled for everything by default, not a feature you turn on only if you’re doing something you consider worth protecting.
This is important. If we only use encryption when we’re working with important data, then encryption signals that data’s importance. If only dissidents use encryption in a country, that country’s authorities have an easy way of identifying them. But if everyone uses it all of the time, encryption ceases to be a signal. No one can distinguish simple chatting from deeply private conversation. The government can’t tell the dissidents from the rest of the population. Every time you use encryption, you’re protecting someone who needs to use it to stay alive.
By not using encryption you are putting lives in danger. Specifically the lives of people who need encryption to stay alive. So long as a majority of people utilize unencrypted forms of communication the presence of encryption becomes a signal that indicates to a snoop that the captured data is important. If all data, from e-mails wishing grandma a happy birthday to plans for protesting the latest act of police brutality, is encrypted then the spies can’t use it to indicate what is and isn’t important. At that point their costs skyrocket because the only way for them to learn what is and isn’t important is to decrypt everything, which isn’t feasible for any organization.
So stop making excuses and learn how to encrypt your data. There are plenty of people out there, including myself, willing to help you. If you don’t then you’re contributing to a problem that puts real lives in danger.