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If you are convinced that the NSA is spying on you, why aren’t you encrypting your emails?

Afraid encrypting your e-mails will make you stand out? Let’s consider that concern … and then stop worrying about it. There are three counter points to that concern that come readily to mind:

  • Your e-mail is already being read. Encrypting or not encrypting won’t change how eagerly your in-box is raided … just the results. Right now, anyone who wants to (including private businesses and assorted other crooks) get everything handed to them on a platter. Make ’em work for it..
  • Your e-mail, like your neighbors, probably contains nothing more incriminating than acknowledging an appreciation for butterscotch flavored popcorn. But THAT is a private matter between you and your waistband and whoever you intentionally sent that e-mail to. It is NOT the business of anyone else. Think of it like this: it’s not whether or not you have anything to hide, it’s whether or not they have any right to read mail not sent to them. And they do NOT have that right, even if they have that ability. There are laws against reaching into your snail mail box; but you’ll have to protect your e-mail however you can because the laws regarding your right to privacy have NOT kept up with technology … a fact the snoops are fully aware of. The RIGHT still exists, but the laws enforcing it have lagged seriously behind. Only strong encryption can keep them from, in effect, steaming the envelope open, reading and even altering what is inside it. Using encryption is not evidence of guilt. It is evidence of a desire to protect yourself from unreasonable search and seizure … a Constitutionally protected provision.
  • Many business e-mails are already encrypted. Yours will blend right in with theirs and, indeed, the sheer volume of encrypted e-mail provides cover for each additional piece. If you were the only sheep in the room, it would be easy to single you out for a shearing; but if there are 30 million sheep in a flock, the chances of being selected for a haircut become vanishingly small. There is safety in numbers, after all.

The risks attendant to encrypting your e-mail are similarly few:

  • Encrypting your e-mail makes you look bad at trial.
    • If you ever come to trial, you should be able to explain your taste for butterscotch and your right to enjoy butterscotch without government interference or snooping. Your attorney might be able to make the point that you chose encryption as a means of protecting yourself against unreasonable searches and possible self-incrimination … and that both are Constitutionally protected rights. The fact that you are now on trial proves that the government violated your Constitutional rights by looking where you had expressly forbidden others to look. Encryption definitely says “keep out”.
  • Encrypting your e-mail makes you stand out.
    • Yeah, you and 100 million or so business users sure stand out. The fact is that the more encrypted e-mails there are on a given day, the less any single one of them stands out … that’s the idea behind the “30 million” illustration.
  • Encrypting your e-mail means Aunt Flo won’t be able to read you butterscotch cookie recipes.
    • Screw it … what’s more important, your right to privacy or Aunt Flo’s culinary ambitions? If you REALLY must share that recipe with her, call her, write her or actually visit the old gal. For goodness sake, you already know you should see her more often … here’s your excuse.
    • This is your chance to have “the conversation” with Aunt Flo (and set her computer up so her e-mails to you are encrypted automatically). If she’s not already addicted to Windows, install Ubuntu. She’ll never know the difference.
  • The more often a court order produces nothing but a recipe for butterscotch cookies or other, similarly non-incriminating, information, the less appetite the government and private parties will have for reading other people’s mail and the less willing judges will be to entertain requests such fishing expeditions.
    • It’s a numbers game and the way to win it is to drag matters out, time after time, when there is nothing but a harmless communication on the line.
  • Encrypting your e-mail does NOT hamper prosecution of child pornographers, jihadists and other “bottom of the barrel” types.
    • Law enforcement was catching these dregs of humanity without the ability to read the encrypted hard drives of innocent citizens of good standing. It figures in very few arrests, even if it later (after the arrest has already occurred for “good and probable cause”) it is used in evidence against them. It’s a tool law enforcement does not need. We, however, certainly need our Constitutional right to be secure in our persons and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures. If they don’t already know what an encrypted e-mail contains, how on earth can they claim that it holds incriminating evidence … they haven’t read it yet. If they DO know what it contains, they have violated the clear and specific wording and intent of the Constitution to find out and no law which violates the Constitution has to be obeyed.

Look, I’m right here, if you need help setting your e-mail encryption up, give me a shout in the comments and I’ll give you some links that make e-mail encryption “butterscotch cookie” easy.

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