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Your Privacy and Your Life

 Bob:  After spending a lot of time following the mail recently, I informed
a friend (a prominent economist with a major firm that manages money and
investments for governments and the like) about the latest goings on in the
U.S. government's attempt to essentially ban privacy.  He came up with a new
twist that I thought might be interesting to many.

Editorial note: Jay is not a cryptographer, so by "unbreakable" I think he
should mean breakable only with extreme difficulty (i.e. itís not worth the
effort)) without the key(s).

I have encapsulated the term in quotes. .....MRL.



The Federal government wants to make it unlawful for anyone in the US to use
any form of data encryption, to which a key has not been provided to the
Federal government. In effect, the proposed laws outlaw privacy. Government
officials claim there is no communication which they should not be able to
read. Government officials claim they need this power so they can catch
criminals, terrorists and spies.

Key questions that must be asked of those who support giving government
officials this extraordinary power:

Why should the doings of criminals set the standard of behavior to be
applied to the vast majority of Americans, who are law-abiding?

Do government officials expect criminals to obey this law?

Do government officials have any data series which show the number of cases
in which intercepted data/telephone communications were the only evidence
available for use against the accused?

"Unbreakable" encryption can save your life. Most of us have records in all
sorts of databases, for all kinds of good reasons (tax records, payroll
records, medical records, military service records, credit card usage, car
rentals, etc.). The advent of cheap computing power makes it possible for
these databases to be linked, so that a quite complete picture of each
American can quickly be assembled. These data can be potentially lethal. For
example, if an abused woman has fled to a distant part of the country, these
data can be searched with relative ease by her abuser, if he has the
requisite computer skills. With "unbreakable" encryption, his efforts will
be blocked. Rather than banning "unbreakable" encryption, Federal law should
mandate it for key personal databases, of the type listed above.

At an extreme, your personal data could be used to target you for genocide.
In most European countries, citizens must carry national identity cards, a
form of internal passport. When one moves to a new town, one must register
with the police there. Those who have watched movies depicting World War II
in Europe perhaps recall Gestapo agents stopping persons on the streets and
demanding to see their "papers". Police officers in Europe can still demand
to see national identity cards when they wish to do so: minorities are often

We do not have "national identity" cards here in America. Yet. But the
various databases, if linked, could formal a virtual "national identity"
card. Thus, if as future administration decided it wanted to target a
certain group of Americans, as was the case with Japanese-Americans during
World War II, those databases could become a virtual death warrant for those
in the target group.

Rather than supporting a ban on "unbreakable" encryption, every American
should demand that Congress require key databases be "unbreakably"
encrypted, and that severe punishments should be meted out to those who
refuse to "unbreakably" encrypt such databases.

The Federal governmentís argument that a ban on "unbreakable" encryption
will cripple its efforts to protect us against criminals overlooks a key
fact. The biggest criminals in this century have not been common or
organized criminals. The biggest murderers in this century have been
officials of governments "gone bad". In eight major genocides between 1915
and 1994, 57 million were murdered, including millions of children. In the
Nazi genocide alone, 13 million were murdered in 13 years. It would take
Europeís common criminals about 400 years to murder so many, if Americaís
peak murder rate in the past 20 years (10.2/100K in 1980) were applied to

Plenty can be done to curb violent criminals. But asking us to accept a ban
on "unbreakable" encryption is asking us to commit suicide for fear of
death. Call your Congress member and demand they vote against the ban on
"unbreakable" encryption. The life you save may be your own, or those of
your spouse, children and grand-children.

Jay Edward Simkin, Research Director, JPFO (Milwaukee, WI)

  Ed. note:  This is not his real job.