By now you have all heard of the DOJ’s effort to force Apple to unlock a phone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack. Here again we have an example of technology advancing far too quickly for our sluggish political institutions to keep up.
Codes and ciphers are as old as writing. What is new, obviously, is that people anywhere on Earth can now write to other, on portable devices, with zero latency, zero cost, and virtually no physical footprint.
Governments like to snoop. Governments are not always benevolent. When they are not, snooping is how they know where, and against whom, to project their power.
People like privacy. They believe their personal communications should be nobody’s business but their own. Moreover, they know that governments like to snoop.
Governments have the job of protecting public order. This is easiest in organically ordered societies, but the West is no longer an amalgam of organically ordered societies; it has been consciously and deliberately disordered for many decades. It is now a chaotic place, deeply infected with human pathogens that seek to cause it harm.
Human pathogens like privacy, too. It makes their work easier and more efficient. Attentive citizens of the West understand this. If they are sufficiently intelligent and attentive, though, they are also beginning to understand that the societies they live in have been deliberately disordered and weakened by their rulers. More and more of the people of the West are coming to realize that for some reason their own governments, like the pathogens those governments have opened the doors to, apparently also intend to cause them harm. (How else to explain, for example, what has happened to Europe?)
This means that their governments cannot rationally be understood as wholly “benevolent”. And when governments are not benevolent, snooping — on their own citizens — is how they know where, and against whom, to project their power.
So, the citizens are in what is sometimes called a “cleft stick”. Should they empower their governments to snoop, knowing that the government cannot be counted on to act benevolently toward them? Or should they resist, knowing that this will empower the pathogens now at large within their social organism?
My own feeling is that, death-by-government having had a vastly higher body count over the past century or so than even the bloodiest wars (and astronomically higher than any act of terrorism), we should choose to protect our privacy. Just in case.
Here’s one way to do that.