Let's take our tinfoil hats off for a second. Okay, it’s obvious how the web has revolutionized how we share information with one another. We can transmit information across the globe in an instant. A new, unfamiliar issue is the issue of privacy. Who sees what we send out through that intricate series of tubes known as the internet. The short answer: whoever wants to.
Start-up Silent Circle is bringing to the table a new stance on mobile security. They have already developed an app for “secure” encrypted phone calls and text messages, but now they plan to tackle sending of files and pictures. To get a better understanding of how encryption works, here’s a video. The process is a little complicated, but basically it ensures that the message goes to who it is intended and no one else. They take steps to insure no one's data is stored indefinitely, and the window of opportunity to access these files is very short. Even if they could, they don’t have the encryption “key” so they cannot decipher what these files say easily.
The first use for this technology that comes to mind is to hide your activities and communications from authorities. This can be in the form of a criminal enterprise or by revolutionaries trying to escape an oppressive regime. Very soon after sending the data, the senders copy is deleted. So if caught, there's no evidence. The U.S. criminal justice system is almost entirely reactionary. They don’t have a way around this right now, but it’s almost certain they will find one. This app certainly makes it more difficult.
This company is almost guaranteed to have legal battles in their future. The fun side of the law is that regardless of outcome, an underhanded tactic can be employed to drain the time and resources of the defendant. There is no way Silent Circle doesn't see this coming. They have stated they will deny any and all requests for eavesdropping. Law enforcement will do it’s darnedest to change that. This is certainly a sign of our exponential advancement into the future.
Think about Prohibition. Technology was nowhere near what it is today. Criminals could, and did, easily circumvent the law with clever tactics. Today, the information about our lives is a commodity. The authorities want it to keep us in check, advertisers want it to sell us their products, and criminals want it to plan out their nefarious deeds. People are constantly grabbing at our info, but they don’t care even the slightest bit about us. No one is interested in what you have to say, they want to know what you’ll buy and do.
Tinfoil hat back on. How far does our right to privacy extend? We know the First Amendment isn't all encompassing. You can’t run into a theater and scream, “Fire!”. Our rights have been proven alienable. So who protects our privacy? No one but you. Any information being put through the tubes should be done with the assumption that someone, somewhere unintended, will find it. Encryption makes finding and reading it very very difficult, to the point where unless a weak-point is identified, no one will even try to decrypt your files. One thing’s for sure, privacy will only become more of an issue as technology progresses.