Home News End-to-End Encryption’s Central Role in Modern Self-Defense

End-to-End Encryption’s Central Role in Modern Self-Defense


Meanwhile, U.S. anti-encryption initiatives, including proposed legislation like the Earn It Act, continue to pit law enforcement against tech protections. Pfefferkorn is well aware of this disagreement. “You really can’t support choice and de-encryption at this point,” she said.

The researchers note that encryption is often seen in the context of enabling freedom of speech, but it can also be viewed in terms of self-defense.

“Effective, uncensored, covert communications are certainly more valuable to the Resistance than small arms,” ​​said Ryan Lackey, a computer security consultant. “If you have magic, safe telepathy between everyone in the organization, and in a civil war or resistance situation, and some of your allies are inside the opposition, you don’t need a gun to win.”

Lackey points out that there are similarities between encryption and guns, an observation that others have sometimes explored, as stated in the Second Amendment. The key factor, however, is the link to the right to self-defense, which Supreme Court Second Amendment authoritarians have repeatedly listed as a “core component” of the law.

In addition to end-to-end encryption protecting people from governments, police, and prosecutors, it also protects them from others trying to harm them, whether they’re criminal hackers or violent extremists. While equating encryption with a weapon would misinterpret its function — it’s more of a shield than a sword — these defenses remain the most powerful tools people around the world have to protect their digital privacy. There are obvious parallels with gun advocates’ zeal for their right to bear arms.

Stanford’s Pfefferkorn noted that the general acceptance and defense of encryption by abortion providers, patients, or anyone who supports choice is logical and necessary, especially given the overthrow of the Roe v. Wade. She added that at this juncture, when the Supreme Court overturns decades of established precedent on a variety of issues at a time, the overarching conclusion that matters is the benefits of having access to end-to-end encryption, and the need to preserve that access.

“The law can change. The rules of society can change. A completely harmless conversation you had yesterday could hurt you again years from now,” says Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green. “That’s why we don’t write down every spoken conversation and keep it forever. Encryption is just one way to provide the same basic protection for digital communications.”

Twenty-six states either criminalize abortion, will do, or may take the step. How these laws will be enforced remains unknown. To be sure, millions of people with nothing to hide before the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling now face the prospect of potential targeting, surveillance and even jail time for their reproductive health. Full encryption is essential for their self-defense. As Signal’s Marlinspike said during a panel discussion at the 2016 RSA Security Conference in San Francisco, “I actually think law enforcement should be difficult…I think it should actually be possible to break the law.”

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