Cryptography and the right to bear arms

Submitted by Darren Oh on Thu, 12/19/2019 - 13:03

Cryptography is legally protected by the right to free speech. It is also protected by the right to keep and bear arms. Until 2000, cryptography was considered a weapon under United States law, and exporting strong encryption from the United States was banned. The same arguments used to defend gun ownership also apply to the right to use encryption to transmit and store information.

  1. If guns are illegal, only criminals will have them.
  2. People have the right to protect themselves.
  3. People should not be required to trust the government.

The US Senate attacks encryption

On December 10, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lyndsey Graham accused Americans who use encryption of creating a safe haven for criminal activity. He made his remarks at opening of the hearing on “Encryption and Lawful Access”. He threatened that if companies do not voluntarily give law enforcement access to encrypted information, the government will make them do it. I have two problems with Senator Graham’s position:

  1. I do not need the government’s help to keep my private communication from being used for criminal activity.
  2. Laws will not stop criminals from protecting their information from law enforcement. Encryption is math. No one needs permission to use it.

Would the voters who elected Lyndsey Graham think it was reasonable for him to demand that gun manufacturers provide a way for law enforcement to automatically disable their guns without their knowledge? That is the equivalent of demanding that law enforcement have access to encrypted information. Lyndsey Graham’s demands leave law-abiding citizens totally dependent on the government to protect their private information. They make innocent people vulnerable to government attacks while criminals remain protected.