Cutting Through the Encryption Argument

by Colin Berkshire

The FBI is complaining that they can’t get into everybody’s things, and they would like to make it unlawful to lock them out. That is, they want only “responsible encryption”.

The argument that to protect the rights of citizens, the citizens must give up those rights is as old as this country. Part of the American Revolution was an objection to the British simply entering homes and search them.

This is why the US Constitution provides: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects”

Without probable cause, people’t privacy is constitutionally protected. And, that right could not be violated in any way without probable cause.

But another side of this is that there is no obligation of a citizen to cooperate with searches. Indeed, citizens have the constitutional right to sit and do nothing, and to even hope that their locks cannot be picked and their hiding holes cannot be found.

Think about this. It is your right to bury your secrets in your back yard and to never tell the government where you have hidden things. The government may try to find them, but it is a game of cat and mouse. You are not required to file a map of where things are buried, you are not required to bury them only an easy to reach depth, and you are not required to make them be easy to access.

So any notion that encryption must be designed to allow the government access is bogus from the start. Any law that provides swift and easy access to your secrets is a violation of your constitutional rights.

I used to subscribe to the theory that if you are innocent you have nothing to hide. With the coming of gray hair I have learned that this just isn’t true. Privacy is important, even for innocent people. There are things which exist in every innocent person’s life which they just want to be private. Any married couple knows this. (Which is why a person cannot be compelled to testify against their spouse, either.