Sun. Jan 22nd, 2023

Legal and ethical issues around encryption

Encryption is a necessity; without it, many of the modern technological processes on which we rely would not be possible. Web browsing would be less safe; online shopping would be out of the question. Subscription TV wouldn’t exist. Cryptocurrencies wouldn’t exist. Encrypted chat wouldn’t exist.

We accept that encryption allows users (a user could be an individual or a government) to secure information. The military need to be able to communicate without being those messages being intercepted – we all know what a huge impact the breaking of the Enigma code had on the length and outcome of World War 2.

Morally, the right to privacy is a basic human right, and as more of our lives becomes digital, there clearly needs to be a process in place to ensure our privacy in the digital space. Legally, it is more complicated: it is commonly argued that if one user’s right to privacy endangers another user, then it may be acceptable to restrict or remove the former’s right to privacy, for the good of the latter.

Then there is the argument of whether applications which promote security should also have a ‘backdoor’ built in to allow governments to access communications – in the interest of national safety. While morally this is commendable, in reality it can’t work: as soon as a backdoor is implemented, that backdoor is also available to any hacker who wishes to compromise a system.

For further details and other examples please see the following links.

Encryption ethics: are email providers responsible for privacy? (

Legal Issues with Cryptography | Cryptography with Java | InformIT

View of The ethics of unbreakable encryption: Rawlsian privacy and the San Bernardino iPhone | First Monday