Last month, I went to the Ground Zero 9/11 memorial for the first time. Looking at the two pools, I realized that 9/11 was the end of an era. I was in high school when the towers fell and everything stopped as the students and teachers watched the news all day. In the weeks following
our everyday schedules eventually went back to normal. However, 15 years later, something that never came back to America was that feeling of certain, unshakable safety.
Introduction of The Patriot Act
Politicians have tried restoring that feeling of security through over-reaching programs and legislation. These programs were designed under the guise of helping to to prevent acts of terrorism like 9/11 from happening again. The Patriot Act was the first of multiple changes in legislation that expanded the monitoring authority of the government. It allows federal agents to eavesdrop on phone/email communications, collect bank and credit records, and track user internet activity.
Although we accepted a loss of liberty in exchange for a feeling of security, the next generation of Americans didn’t have this choice. They were born into an America where the government has easy access to all of your information. These Americans have demanded the ability to make their own choice on how much liberty they are willing to exchange for the promise of security.
The process for making that choice in our society is to vote for a representative in a congress that make laws for the whole. The problem is that this next presidential election is the laughing stock of democracy. To the older Americans, it just reinforces what we have stereotyped the American politician into. To the younger Americans, this election cycle will erode any trust they might have had in the American political system.
The Emergence of End-to-End Encryption Messaging Services
So what do you do when you are born into a society with limited liberty? What can be done when the social process for restoring liberty is an obvious sham televised in full mockumentary style? You rebel. It isn’t guns, war, and land. Its information and the security and safety of our unalienable rights given to us by our Creator, namely Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Americans don’t need to be told these things, they are self-evident and more than that…they are bred into us.
Now after all these years of hackers, communication platforms listening to conversations, and so-called “wiretapping,” people are demanding more privacy. This demand has led to a rebellion of messaging apps providing end-to-end (e2e) encryption messaging services. Following the public debate between Apple and the FBI earlier this year, WhatsApp implemented what they are calling “full end to end encryption” messaging. Likewise, WhatsApp parent company Facebook is in the midst of introducing e2e encryption within it’s messaging application, Messenger. The new optional feature, ‘secret conversations’ will allow users to have private conversations that can only be read on a single device for each participant. Additionally, the user can set a timer to control the length of time each message remains visible within the conversation.
Implications For The Future
Technology and mathematics are the tools, and with them encryption systems can be designed that give people a choice again. However, this only remains true as long as society can keep innovating new solutions. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) oversees all major encryption and secure communication algorithms. Those same encryptions also have been suspected to be weakened by the NSA. These algorithms aren’t up to the task of ensuring private communication for much longer. Moving forward, new encryption systems will need to be designed privately, outside the influence of the NSA to meet the need of securing private communication. Companies can fill this gap by developing secure systems and educating the consumer on their effect use. We can only expect more and more companies to add encryption services to their product lines as long as our government continues to overstep their access.
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