by Colin Berkshire

Colin here. It’s very rare when an individual raises to the level that they are worth listening to. Steve Jobs was one of those people. Kim Dotcom may be another…I’m watching to see.

He is certainly one of the most entertaining individuals of all time. From his hot-tub parties to his paratroopers descending from helicopters in a promotional stunt, the guy is genuinely fun to watch. He is in many ways right out of a comic book.

But this guy is smart. I mean, he is Steve Jobs smart. He might change the world, or at least the Telecom world. He “gets it.”

I used to think he was just a pirate, profiting off from illegal copies of movies. But then, I used to think Steve Jobs was exactly the same when he financed Apple by building and selling Blue Boxes. (Yes, really, that is how Apple got its earliest funding.) the analogy is apt: back in the 1970s the phone companies had as much power as the movie industry does today. It was a felony to steal a long distance call but not if you just shoplifted from your local Sears store. In many ways the movie industry has supplanted the Bell System as the political Gestapo.

Kim said something interesting: freedom of people depends upon strong encryption of everything on the Internet. Kim wants half the Internet to be encrypted, and for good reason.

I’m on the record a decade ago as thinking SSL and encryption was just downright silly. There was never a single recorded case of credit card theft from man-in-the-middle interception. I believed that SSL was just fear mongering to sell overpriced SSL certificates. (OK, well, it really was exactly that.)

But today we need to encrypt everything on the internet, using strong encryption. Computing power is so cheap that there is no reason not to do this. So there is no real downside. The only real barrier is that the Internet lacks a global encryption standard that can be applied to every socket and every connection. We need that.

But why?

Personal freedoms are most likely to be intruded upon by governments. We have seen this in Egypt, Mynmar, and elsewhere. The Chinese Great Firewall is another example of government control over communication.

J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI demonstrated that the value of holding blackmail materials on every politically influential individual was extremely valuable. And, if you have your own woman’s underwear in your own closet, you simply need that sort of blackmail material to protect yourself.

With the opening of the Utah Data Center by the NSA later this year, essentially the entire Internet within the United States will be recorded. Every phone call, every email, every FaceTime message will be recorded and analyzed. All without search warrants. (All, of course, to protect us.)

When people are afraid to talk with each other, the normal evolution of government and political standards is not possible. If a minority group can get into a position of accessing all communications then they have absolute control. I don’t know if this will be the pro-war Military Industrial Complex, or some fundamentalist church, or the music industry, or McDonald’s. But I do know that having all of our communications recorded and catalogued may be OK for a while or a decade, but eventually it backfires.

Everything on the Internet needs to be encrypted. Kim DotCom was the first to recognize this and to vocalize it publicly. When you hear this idea your initial reaction is that it is crazy not just for piracy. But the when you look at the story of Kim DotCom’s prosecution and the government’s intervention in his [dubious] business before he had a chance at due process you realize how bad this can all get. Whether or not you think he is a crook, remember that so was Steve Jobs when he made his first money selling Blue Boxes.

In my ways I find a lot of similarity between Kim DotCom and Steve Jobs. The pirating, the sex, the flamboyant lifestyle, and the brilliant vision of the future before it became clear to all of us.

Lets encrypt the Internet. All of it. Every last bit. If the Internet represents freedom, we need to protect it.