Brin on privacy

Lyle Burkhead (
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 22:50:30 -0500 (EST)

In reply to my statement,

> Encrypting messages is like painting your windows black:
> it just attracts attention.

Eugene Leitl writes,

> This is the reason why PGP advocates suggest to encrypt the entire
> email traffic (I would even suggest making some speedy, unsafe
> encryption (e.g. XORing plain with CAM-generated pseudorandom
> stream) a part of TCP/IP protocol suite):

The NSA would love this. It would give everybody a false sense of
security. An encrypted file generated by a speedy, unsafe encryption
program would differ from a file generated by better encryption
programs. The difference wouldn't be apparent to a casual observer,
but the NSA could see the difference.

> so that high-entropy pieces (compressed stuff causes this anyway)
> won't cause scanner chips raise their virtual eyebrows whence
> flowing thru NSA (heard the interrupt pling?) nodes

True, they would have to rely on other methods besides scanner chips
that simply recognize high-entropy messages. But other methods are
available. Devising such methods would give them something to do,
maybe increase their budget... no problem.

In a sea of pseudorandom bits generated by a simple encryption
program, a "seriously" encrypted message would stand out. Then
they would know: here is somebody who has something to hide.
The standard encryption isn't good enough for this guy -- so who is he?
And then they would proceed to find out who he is.

Let me rephrase my original statement: using more encryption than
other people commonly use is like painting your windows black when
everybody else uses curtains. It just attracts attention.