Encryption = Good : Backdoor = Bad

Every time there is a tragic attack on people or property, there is a cry from various authorities or politicians for law enforcement to get unfettered access to all kinds of communication tools.

But that would cause far more harm than good, and is a really bad idea.

The argument goes something like this:

These bad actors hide behind encrypted communications to plan their evil deeds. Therefore to stop them law enforcement needs to have access to all this. Therefore we need to have backdoors built into all encryption that law enforcement can use.

This is flawed in many ways.

There is no evidence that unfettered access to communications helps. Sometimes the information was actually available, but no one managed to put it together ahead of time to stop the evil deed.

There is no way that backdoors can be limited to use by law enforcement. They will inevitably be discovered by others and used for evil, thus rendering encryption and all the protection it provides useless.

Bad actors will stay a step ahead. If mainstream communications and encryption tools have backdoors, they will just create their own secure communications channels.

But don’t just take my word for this. Read, for example, this article by security expert Bruce Schneier entitled Why we Encrypt.

And this article by Cory Doctorow on how ridiculous British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments on the need to backdoor encryption are entitled What David Cameron just proposed would endanger every Briton and destroy the IT industry.

And this article by Mike Masnick of Techdirt entitled The Paris Attacks Were An Intelligence Community Failure, Not An ‘Encryption’ Problem.


  1. and this column from today’s Globe and Mail by Ann Cavoukian, former Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario: “Encryption is Crucial to our Privacy and Freedom“.

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