Encryption and the 2016 Election

Did anybody see the US Republican debate a few nights ago? The main issues were terrorism and national security. Technology encryption is a big part of this debate.

Encryption is a way to communicate online messages so only the sender and recipient can interpret it. This method has been controversial since the 1990s. But this year, with the rise if ISIS and terrorist attacks from Paris, France to San Bernardino, CA, the issue has become a matter of life and death. Where does your favorite candidate stand? Democrat front-runner Hilary Clinton talked loosely about encryption. But earlier this year with Silicon Valley leaders, she called on them to have serious conversations with legislation about encryption. Rival Bernie Sanders hasn’t said much about encryption. In an interview, Sanders expresses fear we’re moving toward a Big Brother society and vows to fight for privacy rights. On the Republican side, front-runner Donald Trump vows to shut out ISIS’s internet connection by any means necessary. Ted Cruz said the USA Freedom Act and giving data collection from the NSA to phone companies could help track terror threats. Marco Rubio wants the Feds and private corporations to share more information to prevent terrorism. The most interesting candidate in this issue is Dr. Ben Carson. His website has high level encryption to process donations, he’s open to surveillance on schools and religious institutions.

Of all these stances on encryption, Dr. Carson’s worries me the most. On one hand, he uses encryption to protect his donors. I’m glad he is. He knows how easy it is for hackers to break into his website. But yet Dr. Carson seems to have little problems with infringing on people’s freedom of religion or education in the name of fighting terrorism. That’s my problem. I know it’s a dangerous, evil world out there. I don’t expect it to get any better in 2016. But we need to fight terrorism without turning into the Big Brother society Bernie Sanders warns about. So far, none of these candidates have a good answer. Do you?

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