Snowden: “Encryption Is The Defense Against The Dark Arts”

Automatic Encryption Is Key to Preserving Privacy

Ed Snowden told the SXSW conference yesterday:

[Snowden] Encryption is the defense against the dark arts. [Invoking the Harry Potter series.]


[Question] Ed, you submitted written testimony last week to the European Parliament. I want to quote a very short part of that and have you elaborate on it. You said in connection with mass surveillance the good news is that there are solutions. The weakness of mass surveillance is that it can very easily be made much more expensive through changes in technical standards. What kind of changes were you talking about and how can we ensure that we make mass surveillance more expensive and less practical?

[Snowden] The primary challenge that mass surveillance faces from any agency and any government in the world is not just how do you collect the communications as they cross the wires and find their way through the network, but how do you interpret them? How do you understand?


And the result of [end-to-end encryption] is a constitutional, more carefully overseeing sort of intelligence gathering model. Where if they want to gather somebody’s communications they have to target them specifically. They can’t just target everybody all the time and then when they want to read your stuff they go back in a time machine and say what did they say you know in 2006. They can’t pitch exploits in every computer in the world without getting caught. That is the value of end to end encryption and that is what we need to be thinking about.

High-ranking NSA whistleblower William Binney – the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information – said long ago that the solution to Americans’ privacy due to mass surveillance is for the NSA to automatically encrypt all data … which would force the government to obtain a search warrant in order to decrypt data on a specific suspected bad guy.

In other words, Snowden and Binney agree that encryption is one of the key ways to protect our privacy.  Snowden stresses automatic encryption by technology companies, while Binney focuses on automatic encryption by the NSA.

They’re both right …

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