Secrets Are Worth More Than Weapons

They're not giving up, huh. After EARN IT and LAED didn't work out, it's time for the British «independent press» to innocently remind the masses of the child abuse problem. Makes sense.

The very possibility of this debate in its current form underscores the power over the narrative that the elites have accumulated. It is politically impossible to say that «child abuse» of the sort that is facilitated by encryption (because an overwhelming share of child abuse isn't) is just not nearly a big enough problem to deny a common man his ability to communicate with his allies in private. However, that would be an absolutely true statement. Those two values are nowhere near commensurate.


Because encryption does not create privacy. It only commoditizes privacy, counteracting the trends that make it ever more of a privilege. The rich and influential (and this is very intensely pushed out of collective consciousness) have resources and social structures in place to allow them to meet, negotiate and push any agenda they want without wide public knowledge; they have their lodges and clubs and invite-only conferences to effectively conspire; and high intelligence and entrenched practices to obfuscate everything they say even in case it leaks; and an army of servants to dilute the leaks into harmless noise and cause for social shaming for those who dare pay attention. This is all doable with technologies from the 19th century.

But we're not in the 19th century. There are CCTVs on the streets, more numerous than the police in any totalitarian state ever were; instead of a grocery store owner who you know like a brother, you buy stuff from a faceless corporation that knows more about you than you do yourself; and loud beer halls and dingy pubs have become panopticons. And that's just the normal, above-ground stuff: modern agencies like NSA are also far superior in their capabilities to the secret police of old. In such an environment, a common man cannot very well hope to oppose the power if it ever circumvents its inbuilt limitations, checks and balances and coalesces into a cohesive bloc: any attempt to create a resistance will be instantly discovered and crushed before gaining momentum. Basically, this means that, if we are to ensure the impossibility of such a scenario, the watchers must be watched intently at all times, that politicians be put in a glass house, and that the secrecy of the «deep state» must be compromised to the extent that's unrealistic in presence of any geopolitical challengers. None of this is likely to happen in reality, so all that's left is waiting for an irreversible collapse into a much less free state.

Encryption, to a large extent, negates all that. So long as you can exchange keys privately and avoid the obvious threats like clipper chips and a myriad of their modern incarnations, you can keep in contact with your allies – just like the big guys. And thus you can keep them on their toes even without any deep knowledge of their operations; just by virtue of being able to keep secrets from them just as they keep secrets from you.

Information is the ultimate resource, and information asymmetry is the ultimate advantage. A secret is a unit of information asymmetry. Secrets are worth more than weapons. More than the right to speak in public. More, even, than property. If you can keep and selectively share secrets, in time you can gain any other right you need. And if you can't, then those who can will take away anything they want from you, piece by tiny piece. This is why encryption is to be protected at all costs. Even the tears of a tortured child.