Google News shows that an AP story, filed yesterday, on Skype and encryption is in virtually every newspaper in America this morning. The thrust of the story is that secure communication with Skype is easy, much easier than secure communication has been with any previous technology. And even if there are flaws, it could still stymie the NSA’s efforts to eavesdrop on conversations.
Congress has given the NSA sweeping powers to eavesdrop on ordinary citizens, who most likely will be using ordinary telephones. The convenience and ubiquity of cell phones aren’t something we’re going to give up. Criminal enterprises, however, are likely to quickly migrate to secure technologies. The inconvenience of internet calling is more than made up for by the security. Furthermore, with Skype emerging as a technology on cell phones (See Stuart Henshall’s report in yesterday’s Skype Journal), it’s likely we will soon have convenient and portable encrypted calls as well.
So where does that leave us? America, because of the US Patriot Act, is already the fastest growing police state in the world. It’s citizens are about to become some of the most listened to people in the world too. And while the government is eavesdropping on those private conversations, the very terrorists that the US Patriot act is designed to stop, are heading for more secure technologies.
Reactionaries in Congress will likely demand that Skype build in a back door. EBay will probably comply. Ultimately, that’s a futile act. Other encrypted communications technologies will appear.
It’s hard to know what the answer is. However, it seems obvious that the legacy of this sacrifice of freedom on the part of US Citizens will not lead to the result that their politicians are promising.