Could Silicon Valley be the Encryption Killer?

If you value your privacy online then you logically must also be a supporter of encryption. It frightens governments, because encryption prevents them from undertaking mass surveillance on all of our communications. For the longest time, Silicon Valley has been the defender of encryption, but Kalev Leetaruwriting for Forbes, believes that the one-time protector of our privacy may be taking another road and rolling back the protections that encryptions provides us with.

The reason behind this change of heart is not to help out governments: it is. Leetaru suggests, “for their own profit-minded needs to continue mining, monetising and manipulating their users.”

Encryption puts a dent in profits

Encryption is a way of securing Internet communications and keeping them away from the prying eyes of the ‘Deep State’ as well as cybercriminals. In the early days of Silicon Valley, encryption was “a value-add that had no impact on their own use of their users’ data.” Then came Edward Snowden and the Valley firms portrayed themselves as standing up against governments on behalf of their users. However, what was also happening was that they were “encouraging their users to share ever more intimate information to be mined.”

As Leetaru points out, “The movement from HTTP to HTTPS was an easy sell for the major internet companies,” simply because the cost of migrating from SSL certificates and all the other changes required, were all borne by the websites; not Silicon Valley. The only thing they had to pay for “was the added cryptographic computational cost, necessitating some additional hardware investment.”

And here is something important to consider in this debate: SSL only protected user communications in transit. The major Internet companies could still access user data in unencrypted form and use it to monetise their users.

What will Facebook do?

However, end-to-end encryption is a threat to these Silicon Valley companies and the cash they can make from our personal data. Look at Facebook and Whatsapp, which uses end-to-end encryption. Leetaru remarks that Facebook’s “entire existence is prefaced on the ability to mine its users’ most personal and private communications.” And you can bet that Facebook is looking at ways of working around the protections of the Whatsapp encryption in order to continue mining its users’ private communications.

Unfortunately, “the rise of end-to-end encryption is finally aligning the interests of both governments and Silicon Valley,” and while we see governments as the enemy of privacy; it is Silicon Valley that poses a threat in the name of profit.

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