what is killing PKI?

Mark H. Wood mwood at IUPUI.Edu
Tue Aug 28 17:32:26 CEST 2012

On Sun, Aug 26, 2012 at 11:37:01PM +0200, Stan Tobias wrote:
> What I mean to say above, is that weapons are anti-social, they don't
> build trust; and there are better means, other than guns, to maintain
> peace.  Encryption is a weapon.  I believe there are many valid reasons
> to use it, especially to protect other people.  It might buy you some
> safety for a period of time, but it won't bring you Freedom.  You don't
> get more Privacy by encrypting your messages.  If you _have to_ encrypt,
> you're on the losing side.

I was following along, nodding in general agreement, right up to
there.  I feel that a weapon, or encryption, is a tool.  Tools per se
have no social context; it is our actions, with or without tools,
which attach social context.  Using a weapon (whether it is a firearm,
a pillow, or a hunk of software) in a way not generally accepted is

(Aside: if you believe that lots of the people outside your home are
armed, and you go out anyway, that shows a lot of trust.  Almost
anyone could kill you, but they don't.  There's an agreement that
weapons be used only in certain contexts: see how riled up people get
when someone violates such an agreement.  The trust doesn't come from
the weapons; it is generated by the behavior of those who bear them,
and the penalties for violation of such trust are severe.)

I use encryption to enforce the privacy I already (should) have.  So,
yes, it's a weapon.  There are people who don't respect my privacy,
and if I don't defend it they may take it away.  Even if someone
penetrates my encryption, if I can show that he did so I may be able
to win a case against him in court, so it's (potentially) both a
passive and an active defense, a shield for my privacy and an
assertion that I will defend that privacy.

That said, most of the time I don't encrypt because what I say is not
something I consider private.  When I do consider something private,
I'd like to be able to communicate it electronically without fear that
someone I don't trust may be eavesdropping.

I could argue that it would be antisocial for someone to insist that
people not enforce their privacy.  We do not and should not trust all
equally in all situations.  Anyone may have lawful, moral business,
the disclosure of which would be so harmful (in his eyes) that he
might want assurance that only the intended recipient be party to the
discussion.  I doubt there ever was anyone who had *nothing* to hide.

Mark H. Wood, Lead System Programmer   mwood at IUPUI.Edu
Asking whether markets are efficient is like asking whether people are smart.
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