Encryption is a fun and useful tool. It’s not magic; it’s just math. If you’re reading this content directly from my web site, you’re reading it over an encrypted connection. The words started out on my web server, got encrypted, sent over the Internet where many different servers and people could be listening, and ended up in your browser. Yet because of encryption, only you can read the words.
I have tremendous respect for United States legislators, especially at the Federal level; however, I wonder if perhaps they sometimes attempt to pass ill-conceived laws before understanding the situation into which they’re legislating and the implications of their legislation. Consider the recent Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016, sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chair and vice-chair respectively of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. An article in The Hill quotes Senator Feinstein as follows:
I think this world is really changing in terms of people wanting the protection and wanting law enforcement, if there is conspiracy going on over the Internet, that that encryption ought to be able to be pierced.
Normally I find myself in general agreement with Burr and Feinstein on most issues, and I respect both of them because they seem to me to both genuinely care about the real safety and security of the United States. They both put reality above politics. Unfortunately, this bill and Senator Feinstein’s quote demonstrate how little they understand about encryption.