Deborah Pierce’s article, Weak Arguments Against Strong Encryption discusses the arguments against the banning of strong encryption or allowing the building of back doors to access encryptions. She defined encryption as “the math and technology that allows a message to be scrambled to make it unreadable except by the intended recipient” (Pierce) As she claimed, encryption has found many very valuable uses and contributions in different aspects of life and work such as in ATM transactions and in the transfer and storage of sensitive and confidential information such as medical records.
Her arguments will be summarized and examined in the following paragraphs. For her first argument, Pierce claims that banning strong encryptions is not feasible. First, there has been a proliferation of uncrackable encryption products throughout the world for many years making the act of banning very difficult. Moreover, people who know how to encrypt can create unbreakable encryptions again easily. Moreover, it will be terrorists and criminals who will benefit with ban because it is the innocent, law-abiding people that will be affected and not those who are working against the law.
(See Pierce) However, this argument relies on an exaggeration of the ability of people to crack codes. Instead of taking into account several other factors that can affect the feasibility of the measure, the author isolated only one factor to give undue emphasis in infeasibility. What makes the matters worse is that the factor chosen by the author to isolate is not proven nor supported by any statistic data. At most, it is a conjecture. It was chosen to appeal to people
Second, Pierce argued that “the benefits of strong, unbreakable encryption outweigh the harms. ” She gave several examples including human rights organizations that use “encryption to communicate by email with people who would surely be tortured or killed if their communications were made known” (Pierce). This is again an exaggeration of the possible negative effects of the measure, while paying very little attention to positive effects. Moreover, the use of terrorism and human rights violations is an appeal to emotion and constitutes fallacy ad populum.
It appealed to the strong opinion of people against human rights violation. Human rights violations and terrorism occupies a very high rank in public policy and issues of the government. Moreover, almost all people will feel a mixture of emotion when faced with news of terrorism and human rights violations. Mostly, these emotions consist of anger, pity, fear and desire to vindicate the victims. These two issues are often very effective tools in making people adopt a certain policy or position proposed by others.
A solution has been proposed which involves the use of key escrow systems. In this system, encryption users will be required to give trusted third party keys to unlock encrypted keys, which may be given to law enforcers after serving a proper warrant. However, this has been criticized as untrustworthy and may be considered as “the equivalent of allowing the government install a web cam in your bedroom, which they could turn on without your permission or notification any time they thought it might help combat terrorism.
” However, this is a use of a weak analogy. Like all government processes, the issuance and enforcement of warrants to retrieve keys and open encrypted message will require compliance with legal requirements. It is not like mere installation of a webcam inside the bedroom which implies arbitrary use of government power. Lastly, in her discussion, Pierce often referred to respected sources and authorities such as Senator Judd Gregg, R-N. H.
and Tia Walker, founder and CEO of Zendit. However, she failed to support the claims of these authorities with her own arguments and beliefs. Instead, she relies only to the status of the people who made the stated claims to sway the people as regards the reliability of the essays arguments. (641) Reference Pierce, D. Weak Arguments Against Strong Encryption. Seattle Press Online. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from http://www. seattlepress. com/article-9276. html.
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