Encryption on Mailing lists sensless?

Robert J. Hansen rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Mon Nov 17 19:49:01 CET 2014

> Most of the technical reasons can be bypassed by making a single
> subscriber key (public and private) available as a part of the
> subscription process, but that eliminates most of the technical
> advantages of encryption, so it's really a moot point.

It also means there's pretty much no point in keeping archives, because 
it's inevitable that the keys will become separated from the archives. 
And if the key is part of the archive, then what's the purpose of the 
crypto in the first place?

Once, for my job, I had to look into the way the Roman Senate conducted 
its elections.  I was able to find ballots that were over 1500 years 
old.  It was pretty neat, and it changed my perspective on things like 

The crypto dream is that the confidentiality of our messages will be 
preserved for centuries after our death, which sounds really great up 
until you consider what an archaeologist circa 4000 AD is going to be 
thinking.  "I have a stack of records here that could shed light on the 
way people lived in a long-dead civilization, but I can't read them. 
Why?  What were these people doing that they thought their email to 
their Aunt Edna needed to remain secret for all time?  Why is it that, 
millennia after they're gone, Aunt Edna's recipe for potato salad has to 
be gone with them?"

Or think about your own kids, circa 2040 AD.  "I'd love to read these 
emails between Mom and Dad when they were courting, but ... they were 
afraid of Somebody-with-an-S reading their emails.  I wonder if they 
ever thought that the Somebody might be their son, who wanted to 
understand after their deaths how it was these two people came to meet 
and fall in love."

Historians called the early medieval period "the Dark Ages" not because 
the era was full of villainy and evil, but because record-keeping became 
so austere that we really don't know much of what happened for that 
period.  Much like dark matter (matter, but we don't know anything about 
it, hence it's dark), dark energy (energy, but we don't know anything 
about it, hence it's dark), the Dark Ages are an era we know little about.

We're living in a new Dark Age right now.  Historians of the future are 
going to see human record-keeping basically end around 1960.  Fewer 
records were printed out and more were put on digital media -- media 
that deteriorates much more quickly than paper, and depends on 
technology to read it, technologies which become obsolete and are 
discarded even faster than the media degrades.

So when you hear people advocate "crypto everywhere, always, for 
everything," ask yourself this: if they get what they want, what will it 
do to future generations' ability to make sense of our time?

More information about the Gnupg-users mailing list