SPECIAL REPORT: Encryption Debate

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It’s no secret that people have been using codes to protect important messages for about 4,000 years. If it’s such an established part of society, why is the current debate over coded communications—largely between governments and the sometimes-allied tech industry and privacy advocates—such a big deal?

“What’s at stake is the security of consumers,” says Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and author who has written prolifically on the subject for two decades. “Are they allowed to have secure hardware and software, or not?”

His question forms the heart of our investigation into the impact of encryption and the potential outcome of the current debate on consumers. As we investigate in our first story, “Why weakening encryption can hurt you,” if you own a device running Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, you’re probably already using encryption. The latest versions of each operating system protect data stored on the devices, and there are now more than a handful of apps that further protect your phone calls, instant messages, and text messages.

Also on Tuesday, we’ll be publishing an interactive timeline of key moments in cryptographic history.

On Wednesday, January 6, and Thursday, January 7, Parallax contributing writers Grant Gross and Kristin Burnham explore the policy questions fueling the debate. They also debunk key myths about what encryption is and how it works.

On Friday, January 8, Charlie Cooper tells us why techies aren’t complying with U.S. government demands to weaken their devices’ built-in encryption. Not yet, anyway.

Next Monday, January 11, we take a behind-the-scenes look at the government’s take on encryption in a Q&A with Jan Filsinger of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Then next Tuesday, January 12, we conclude with a feature highlighting some of the best encryption apps for your iPhone or Android device. We’ll explain what sets them apart and how you can use them.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to those who contributed to our first special report. We welcome direct feedback via social media. You can also reach me at seth@the-parallax.com.

Seth Rosenblatt

Editor, The Parallax