An Algorithmic and Social Introduction to Computer Science (CSC-105 2000S)

Should encryption algorithms include a ``back door'' that gives government/police access to files in appropriate situations?


Providing a back door in the algorithm sounds like a really good idea because these back doors will help to prevent any malicious intent. However, it still seems like an invasion of privacy. This brings up the entire issue of public privacy versus the security of the nation. The main problem I see, is an increase in the already unreliable key-encrypted algorithm. Although these algorithms are for the most part very secure, having a back door only increases the possibility for a breech in security. so, not only is it a question of the encryption algorithms writer's privacy or the nation's security, but also the security of the writer.


This is a difficult issue, on the one hand, 'back doors' would give government/police access to a great deal of information, and I'm not sure whether we could ever make sure that this access was always being used ethically. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure a situation could arise where, without such a 'back door,' important information would be out of reach. When it's individuals being spied on, I tend to side with the individual, but I suppose that this could work the other way too -- when corporations or agencies of the government are breaking the law, perhaps someone _should_ be able to spy on them. The problem boils down to who decides what an "appropriate situation" is, and what safeguards are in place to make sure that everyone with access adheres to that decision.


i realize now why i got confused. sorry about not submitting my answer until now but it's going to be almost the same as the answer i already submitted last friday for almost the same question. no, i don't think the gov/police should have access to files, period. "appropriate situations" is way too subjective for me to feel comfortable with. almost anything can be deemed an "appropriate situation." appropriate according to who? the court that wants to subpeona the in- and outboxes on your e-mail account? no way. it leaves the possibilities wide open for fraud and abuse of private and personal, and even business and professional, information. i don't know how much more detailed i can be. no, i don't see what inherent right the gov has to have this access. therefore, i don't think they deserve it. especially because doing so would set a precedent for who knows what else!



I think there definitely are certain situations in which the government and/or police should have access to encrypted files. The most relevant situation would be if such files are pertinent to solving an alleged crime. Then, as with other items of private or personal nature (e.g. diaries, financial records), legal authorities should definitely have access. Therefore, there should be a back door. Obviously, as with other types of searches, the government/police should first obtain proper authorization in the form of a warrant. Another situation that might warrant encrypted-file access might be in cases of protecting national security. How one would determine such cases, is, of course, an entirely different issue.



My opinion about this issue is that private property needs to be respected and allowed to maintain privacy, such as in a personal home computer. However, I think public computer, such as in coorporations, need to have some back door on their encryptions incase of an emergency.


Nope, sorry, no biscuit. Do we set aside a special key-set for police to enter into our file cabinets at home? I didn't think so. If the government has reason to think that a file may contain subversive elements, like treason, evidence in a court case, etc., then they had better let all those high-paid government cryptographers earn their money. I don't think the government deserves any more insight into my life than they already have, and I think it's very important that the few personal protections we do still have in the oh-glorious information age stay protected. If I want to send an encrypted love letter to my girlfriend, I should have the right to know that it's not going to be read by anyone but my girlfriend. I think this freedom is one of the basic rights we have as American citizens--the right to be ourselves. We've always been allowed (to some degree) to hide information from others that we thought was important, and we've never included anything that lets anyone into that information.

Also, just a thought question: if the government leaves in a back door, what's to say that someone else couldn't find that same back door and use it themselves? It all seems to risky to me . . . .


Hmmm. My gut reaction is no, because the government can spy on you. I don't always trust that the government's idea of an "appropriate situation" is the same as mine. However, to be realistic, in some cases I think they should. The question is where to draw the line. There may be some information, given it is not harmful, that if the police saw would jeopardize the business of some company. When you have a really good secret, if anyone knows it, things can get ruined. So, maybe the answer should be no for everything, and the cops should just hire some really good cryptographers.


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