Re: Privacy

Hal Finney (
Mon, 9 Dec 1996 21:36:44 -0800

From: "David Musick" <>
> Hal Finney paraphrases David Brin: "Encryption must be banned!"
> It is impossible to ban encryption, at least not the really good stuff,
> because you don't even know the encryption is there; the message looks like
> any other message. That's the whole *point* of cryptography. By its very
> nature it will be secret and undetectable without the proper knowledge, which
> is also secret.

As I mentioned, David Brin did follow his rather startling comment with
some practical qualifications based on the kinds of considerations that
David Musick mentions. He recognizes that in actuality it is not possible
to detect all forms of encryption. However he suggests that there still
would be value in having some kind of legal or financial penalty for
the use of crypto, so that it is not used routinely, but only for the
exceptional message.

You could still imagine a world in which massive encryption is going on,
hidden behind all the music videos and corporate spreadsheets which are
floating through the nets. But I think Brin is right that laws against
encryption would succeed in greatly reducing its use.

I see this as a bad result, because I suspect that it would only increase
the distinction between conspiring criminals, who would certainly hide
their messages, and ordinary people, who would be more out in the open
and vulnerable than ever. I'm not sure what the impact would be on the
intellectual property problem; perhaps it would be more effective in
that regard. But generally, rather than leveling the playing field,
it would make it more lopsided. That is why I have worked for many
years to try to increase the availability of crypto tools for the masses.