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Week 4 – Debate On Encryption

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By Leah Korganowski in the group COMP 607: Fall 2015 cohort October 12, 2015 - 2:12pm

Topic: Should strong encryption be restricted to licensed users only?

In Favour

Strong encryption and the ability to encrypt messages and data: via digital signatures, public key cryptography, symmetric systems, IDEA, DES, etc. should be licensed and regulated by the government. The main argument for this is that encryption hides information in an over necessary point that an everyday individual would ever need. Governments need to be aware and weary of this capability and impose restrictions and regulate this ability. Ordinary encryption techniques such as passwords etc. are okay and should not be regulated as they are used on a mass scale currently to protect users of sites and programs from having their accounts hacked and their login page bombarded by bots. However, when it comes to encryption techniques such as one-time pads (ViaCoprt, 2015) or Symmetric key cryptography, and other more complicated cryptographic means, a regular citizen should not need to use this information, and thus having the government license out this ability would have no impact on them. Businesses however would need to have this access and would need to notify the government why their security measures need to be so drastic, which of course can be obvious as many businesses need to protect their information, however this should be done with the government knowing their reasons to help prevent fraud and business misdoings. 


Encryption should be accessible to all individuals. Computing has changed drastically in the past 20 years, when it first started to be practiced first by businesses (ViaCopr, 2005 ). Computers are now mass produced and virtually accessible to every person on a global scale across all social scales. So why should certain safety precaution be only accessible to certain individuals. In a democratic society, to limit persons or organizations to encryption ability and to regulate them from the government would be an infringement on basic human rights of privacy. Why shouldn’t an individual have the right to protect their information? The government and the opposition would argue that by letting anyone be able to encrypt messages would be allowing terrorists to prevent themselves from being detected and their messages from being intercepted. But we need to remember that this is such a small number of people and the more important fundamental right of privacy is at stake. Not to mention that by regulating encryption is putting further restrictions on privacy and can lead to a slippery slope of privacy violations by the government in future times.