Why You Should Encrypt Your Texts

Just because you’ve got nothing to hide doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to fear.

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You’ve got spies in your house.

You let them in.

The day you bought a smart phone, an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or a smart remote for your TV, you placed an always on, always listening device in your home. Even Siri is always listening for her name, meaning she’s always listening, period.

You don’t care. You think “I’m not that interesting” or “I’ve got nothing to hide.” But there are three problems with that.

First, if you think that surveillance programs are only there to catch bad guys, think again. Second, the “nothing to hide” argument puts the burden on you to prove your innocence. Constantly. “Why are you so worried about privacy?” law enforcement will ask. “are you doing something you’re not supposed to?” Third, you’ve given up the choice of what you share and when. Are you okay with the government reading your email? Out loud? In public? How about searching your house and car and body any time they want? Why not publish your bank balance and parade around naked while you’re at it? After all, you have nothing to hide.

Everyone is probably breaking some law at some time. I speed. I also routinely run the bullshit stop sign at my corner unless there’s a car coming from the other side. Chances are 100% that you, too, break the law in ways big and small.

And we all have tracking devices in our pockets, meaning government officers know, or can easily find out, what we did. Since they can’t arrest everyone, laws are selectively enforced. Marginalized groups such as young people, minorities, immigrants, and the poor are the ones who get arrested for stuff we all do.

Your friends, your colleagues, your children, your children’s friends. I guarantee at least one of them has something to hide from the government. Not because they are doing something illegal or wrong (technically, we all are), but because of selective enforcement.

We can’t do anything about selective enforcement. And in most cases, we can’t live without the spies in our pockets. But at least we can minimize the harm they do.

One easy step you can take is to encrypt your text messages. Instead of sending plain texts, that are easily read by anyone with a search warrant (or in many cases, without one), you can easily encrypt your messages, so that no one but you and the recipient can read them.

Think of it as herd immunity. Journalists and human rights activists around the world encrypt their texts, for good reason. But the problem is, simply encrypting texts by itself can throw suspicion on someone. However, if we all encrypt our texts, it becomes the new normal. Nothing to see here, journalists and humans rights activists and young people and minorities are simply doing what everyone else does.

Lots of apps can encrypt your messages. I like Signal.  It’s made by a hacker collective and gets high marks from the ACLU. PC magazine says “It’s the best secure messaging app we’ve tested.”

It’s free and seamlessly replaces your usual texting app. You need zero tech know-how to use it. You send texts just like you always do. If you’re messaging someone who also uses Signal, it encrypts the message. If you’re texting someone who’s not using Signal, then a regular message goes out as normal.

Signal uses strong, tested end-to-end  encryption tools, which means that even if a court order demanded it,  the developers of Signal would be unable to deliver your messages to the government. It’s not that they’d refuse to do it. They simply couldn’t.

You can’t afford to be passive about this issue. Not now. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the most vulnerable among us. And with free, simple, and seamless apps that will help, there is no excuse not to.

About the author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She sends as few texts as possible, and encrypts every one.

3 responses

  1. A woman at my bus stop one day made a comment about not worrying about privacy because she had nothing to hide. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, who cares?” she said. The way she said it then looked around at everyone was almost a challenge, like “how many of you can say the same?” I imagine she’d be the first to sign up for a Gestapo civil spy squad to monitor her neighbors “for the good of the country” dontcha know.

    1. I’m going to go waaayyy out on a limb here and assume the person making this statement was white and/or privileged. I’m amazed at people who think that something that isn’t a problem for them shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.

      1. Oh yeah, she was. She seemed exactly Trump’s demographic.

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