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Code Specialists Oppose U.S. and British Access to Encrypted Communication (nytimes.com)
417 points by conover on July 7, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments



This debate seems like a manifestation of a problem with governments: They think they can legislate anything they want. Need access to some communications - green light for massive data collection. Some of it is encrypted - just mandate a back door. School shooting - new gun laws. Any problem activity - we'll just make it illegal. Something not getting done - we'll just mandate someone take care of it. They really don't know how to stay at a higher level, it's all micromanagement. Some things are just not possible, but they'll try to make it so with the stroke of a pen.


Not just with governments, but people's whims in general.

To quote G.K. Chesterton [1]:

   And then, last but the reverse of least, there plunged in
   all the people who think they can solve a problem they
   cannot understand by abolishing everything that has 
   contributed to it. We all know these people. If a barber
   has cut his customer's throat because the girl has 
   changed her partner for a dance or donkey ride on 
   Hampstead Heath, there are always people to protest
   against the mere institutions that led up to it. This 
   would not have happened if barbers were abolished, or if
   cutlery were abolished, or if the objection felt by
   girls to imperfectly grown beards were abolished, or if 
   the girls were abolished, or if heaths and open spaces
   were abolished, or if dancing were abolished, or if
   donkeys were abolished. But donkeys, I fear, will never
   be abolished.
[1] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Flying_Inn/Chapter_IX


That is a spectacular quote, and really embodies the impetus of the American people to not only blame excessively when things go wrong, but to place blame in a manner which absolves all parties of any (perceived) responsibility.


I find this is done universally. Every time some shooting or similar disaster occurs, the actual perpetrator is among the last to take the blame. It's the video games, it's the music, it's the toxic culture of masculinity, it's the pharmaceutical drugs, or it's the Zionist media poisoning our children with Judeo-Bolshevist propaganda.

The obsession is with the "one single cause", but more importantly the opportunity for every demagogue to revel in vilifying their preferred scapegoats. Nothing gets fixed, and people wonder why.


None of this rings true to me. I've never heard or read anything like "it wasn't the perpetrator's fault, it was XYZ", but rather "it was the perpetrator's fault, and I wonder if XYZ contributes to the prevalence of such perpetrators". In the US at least, there certainly appears to be something going on outside of random happenstance[0], so it makes sense to think and talk about what that may be. Certainly many people use such things to rail against their pet cause, but far more people are just trying to figure out where we're going wrong.

[0]: http://www.charlespetzold.com/blog/2015/07/De-Obfuscating-th...


I think the difference is people spend relatively little time on the perpetrator having some propensity to have issues (as will happen to some people when you have 7 billions-strong-bell-curve of them) and a lot of time on what could have triggered/exacerbated their issue (which could be a lot of things that don't cause issues in most people). For example, video games, pot, guns, etc. which don't cause issues in most users but seem related to issues in some users. This leads to an over focus on banning the thing most people use without issue rather than recognizing the statistics of 'out of 7 billions people some will have issues'.


As argued in the article I linked (and elsewhere), the U.S. in particular appears to be a statistical outlier, which suggests that we might be able to identify what is different in our policies, and make some improvements.


On the same token, there are many people discussing "other causes" while not removing blame from the perpetrator. For example, if it's easy for someone to gain access to (e.g.) nuclear weapons, it increases the damage that one bad actor can do. It's irresponsible to pretend like there will never be bad actors. Restricting access will never eliminate bad actors, but it's an attempt to limit the damage that bad actors can do.

Example of this abound. Let's take the corrupt cops. Not every cop is corrupt, and the police as an institution is (by many) considered a good thing. Corrupt cops are also responsible for their own actions.

On the other hand, corruption / bad actions on behalf of the police, while not necessarily "rewarded" is usually only met with wrist slapping. In one instance that I can recall, a police office was caught on tape offering accept sex as payment to make an arrest warrant go away. Said officer's punishment was just to get fired. How many police officers in Canada have been punished as a result of the G20 debacle or the handling of the Vancouver Olympics security? What about the trigger-happy LAPD[1]?

Society has some blame if they impart a message to would-be perpetrators that the consequences of bad behaviour are not very severe.

[1] http://www.thewire.com/national/2014/02/lapd-officers-who-sh...


That's an interesting take... It's like the perfect storm of our collective tendency to shirk responsibility, our tendency to generalize in search of a single unifying class, AND the tendency for powerful bodies (governments, corporations, or individuals) to re-contextualize any issue in a manner that validates their operations.


The truth that truly terrifies people, is that some things happen without a rationale.


Limiting your statement to the American populace is a bit ignorant. This is a universal reaction by people, not just those born west of the Atlantic Ocean.


Yeah, that's totally true. As another commenter pointed out, it's more-so the case that I only feel qualified to comment on American mentality (and even then, I don't feel especially qualified). This is particularly problematic here since the article pertains to both U.S. and British governments, and the quote itself was from a British author (as another commenter thoughtfully pointed out). I don't rescind my statement, but I definitely acknowledge the ignorance/cultural arrogance that comes with a comment that invokes the context of a single country -- in a lot of ways, it's this very ignorance that I attempt to combat in forums like this, by reading comments like yours :)


You're probably right, but the American case may be the only case the author felt qualified to comment on.


Seconded. Many times in online discussions people will make sweeping statements about "all" people. This always elicits a response from someone about how that doesn't happen in "my" culture/country/whatever (or how that only happens in America / only applies to Americans).

In this case, the person scoped their statement to (presumably) the society that they are most familiar with, yet this still managed to elicit a response that the scope was not broad enough!


G.K. Chesterton was British.


But the author of that comment about Americans was not G.K. Chesterton.


Chesterton is spectacularly quotable - but I am afraid he was English. I would suggest at a minimum, it reflects the Anglo-Saxon legal mindset, and at a maximum, it reflects the human legal mindset.


In general I think that's a good thing. People are hard to change, but redesigning the system is relatively easy.



> School shooting - new gun laws.

I agree with the sentiment of your post, but as a non-American this one jumps out at me. I don't think it fits the rest of your argument, adding more control and checks for something as dangerous as gun ownership is a good thing.. in particular, it would take a lot to convince me that private ownership of assault rifles is anything but bad news.

I have read some arguments about private protection against excessive government excesses, but I don't really buy it.


Civilians haven't been allowed to buy new assault rifles in the US since 1986. As a result of the severely restricted supply, they're very expensive and rather rare. But even before the registry was closed to civilians, registered machineguns were only used in a handful of crimes since they were regulated in 1934.

In the US, there is a pattern of politicians pushing for their pet gun control measures after some mass shooting, regardless of whether or not it would have stopped the incident that justifies the legislative push. The most recent example is the reaction to the Charleston church shooting, where some politicians pushed for an "assault weapons" ban (which is political term about cosmetics—these are not machineguns) and background checks for private party sales, despite the shooter not using a weapon that would have been covered by the proposed ban, purchased from a licensed gun dealer after passing a standard background check. While universal background checks are arguably a good thing regardless of what motivated the push, the "assault weapons" ban is pure political nonsense. Such guns are almost never used in crime and previous bans were shown to not have any effect on crime. When a gun is used in a crime, it is almost always a handgun.


Yeah, I wish we would stop pushing for assault weapons bans and instead push for a similar sort of safety and usage training, psychological and temperament screening, waiting period, and background checks that a police officer might go through before they are presented with a gun and a badge (that may even be an opportunity to re-think the sort of training we give our police!).

It would be costly, but that sort of licensing, even if done rather clumsily, would make it far more difficult for the wrong people to acquire weapons, while staying in line with the 2nd amendment and preserving gun ownership by law abiding citizens.

Oddly, the NRA seems more even more opposed to licensing than they are on restricting magazine capacity. Maybe they agree that it would be [too] effective!


The problem I have with the whole background checks philosophy is that it sounds like a good thing, but most of the mass shootings we're all familiar with were committed by people who would have passed the background check anyways, or who stole the weapons from someone else, which means the whole exercise was pointless (i.e. didn't meaningfully increase safety from baseline, i.e. security theater)

"Psychological and temperament screening" is a tremendously subjective thing (psych is a pretty soft science on the best of days), and not something I'm comfortable with hanging a constitutional right off of.

It needs to be strictly objective criterion, along the lines of if X then Y.

Now being able to demonstrate safety, I would be 100% cool with, because then we're licensing people, not weapons, and doesn't carry the possible abuse factor of firearms registries. The FCC example given upthread is a great model. You go to a safety class, demonstrate that you know how to operate a gun safely based on objective criteria, and you get a card or a paper or something that entitles you to buy whatever. You have to re-up it every 10 years or so.

Hell, let the NRA run it and charge a token fee. Would give them an actual meaningful place in the discourse instead of the "government's coming for your guns!" scare tactics that they play every few years.


>or who stole the weapons from someone else,

This rings alarm-bells with me, let's have a look:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rampage_killers_%28Ame... says (sorted by year)

First one:

>In September 2012, Rodger visited a shooting range to train himself in firing handguns.[12] In November 2012, he purchased his first handgun, a Glock 34 pistol, in Goleta, after doing research on handguns and judging the Glock 34 to be "an efficient and highly accurate weapon", as documented in his manifesto.[16]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Isla_Vista_killings#Prepa...

Second one:

>The Glock 9mm pistol used in the shooting was legally purchased by Vargas in 2010 from a local gun shop, and he had a concealed carry permit for it.[8][18][3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Hialeah_shooting#Prior_to...

Third one:

>On May 22, 2012, Holmes purchased a Glock 22 pistol at a Gander Mountain shop in Aurora. Six days later, on May 28, he bought a Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun at a Bass Pro Shops in Denver.[64]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Eagan_Holmes#Events_lead...

Fourth one:

> Following an incident later in 2007 involving his stepfather, a restraining order was filed against him, barring him from possessing firearms. The order lasted a year and had expired at the time of the shooting.

(Seems to imply the guns were his? Can't see in article)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Hialeah_shooting#Prior_to...

Fifth one:

>Loughner allegedly purchased the 9mm Glock pistol used in the shooting from a Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson on November 30, 2010.[28]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Lee_Loughner

Sixth one:

>He got out, shot, and wounded a woman on a motorcycle with a Norinco Mak 90 semiautomatic rifle.

(doesn't say who owned it)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_IHOP_shooting

Seventh one:

> Items found on Wong's body included a hunting knife, in the waistband of his pants;[13] a bag of ammunition, which was tied around his neck;[27] and two semi-automatic pistols (a .45-caliber Beretta Px4 Storm and a 9mm Beretta 92FS Vertec Inox, matching the serial numbers on his New York State pistol license)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binghamton_shootings

So of these 7 rampage shootings, 5 were done by people who used their own gun, one is implied (possibly not?).

Furthermore, some of these had past known mental health issues: Elliot Rodger, Scott Evans Dekraai had a restraining order filed against him, Jared Lee Loughner was told to get his mental health evaluated if he wanted to return to university (later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic), Eduardo Sencion was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia a few decades before the shooting, James Eagan Holmes was seeing several psychologists of which one tried to warn his campus police, the others have unknown motives.


"Psychological and temperament[sic] screening?"

Unless you have a foolproof method of determining criminal behavior a-priori OR you're fromthe department of pre-crime, how exactly do you expect this to work in practice?

I think many people have a fundamental misunderstanding of the enumerated rights of the amended Constitution. I don't need permission to exercise any of those rights and they AREN'T granted by the government, only recognized by it.

I don't need a First Amendment license. Why would I need a Second Amendment license?


> Unless you have a foolproof method of determining criminal behavior a-priori

I don't need one, and never claimed to have one. A method does not need to be foolproof in order to be effective.

The existing procedure for screening police officers, though it has some flaws, works remarkably well overall. Thus, I suspect that a similar procedure, applied to average citizens, would also be effective.

> I don't need a First Amendment license. Why would I need a Second Amendment license?

When your free speech impacts others in your community, you often do. For example, amateur radio licensing is required to broadcast your free speech, and you may need permission from a zoning board to make a large religious display in your yard. Here is Scalia from DC v. Heller, a landmark case in the right to bare arms:

> nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms

It seems to me that a reasonable condition and qualification for the purchase of a weapon is to be of a stable mind, and have the proven ability to operate it safely and accurately.

The license would not restrict any law abiding citizen from going through the qualification process, and the cost would be subsidized, so how exactly are your rights being infringed?


I don't even know where to begin with this.

Your understanding of basic civil liberties is so fundamentally flawed that I can't even understand how you arrived at those conclusions.

> The existing procedure for screening police officers, though it has some flaws, works remarkably well overall.

I don't have a constitutional right to be a police officer. I would also argue with your characterization of "works remarkably well overall". You're making an assertion with no supporting facts but since we're going to play that game. There are close to 300 MILLION legally owned firearms in the United States today. Contrary to popular belief, we do not have a rampant gun violence problem with legally owned firearms. So I'd argue that the existing regime works pretty damn well for civilian ownership.

Now compare that record with the record of accidental police shootings (not unarmed suspect shot; think...I didn't hit the right person or/shot killed a person even given my training) and let me know which looks worse to you.

> When your free speech impacts others in your community, you often do.

NO. YOU DON'T. That's PRECISELY the point. The impact of my speech on my community is EXPRESSLY protected by the Bill of Rights. Political speech is given the HIGHEST level of protection. That's why racists can march down main street and call for all minorities to be expelled from the USA. It's why someone can picket a legal business and complain about its actions.

> The license would not restrict any law abiding citizen from going through the qualification process, and the cost would be subsidized, so how exactly are your rights being infringed?

Would you like an example of how this infringes rights?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poll_tax_(United_States)


The radio license has more to do with not misusing finite resources (only so many radio spectrum frequencies/amplitudes available, etiquette has to be followed on HAM/amateur radio because other people are using it too, and you can't just start a radio station without having a channel reserved for your use that doesn't overlap or disrupt someone else), than free speech, else you'd need a license to run a podcast/blog.


> psychological and temperament screening

This is code for "we need a reason to ban anyone we don't like without that pesky requirement of convincing a court".

Example 1 of this is Alabama's concealed handgun license scheme, which up until recently was may-issue (the state is permitted to give a license, but not required). In practice, that meant that if you were white, you always got one. If you were black, not so much.

Or David Cameron's recent gem: 'For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.'


"psychological and temperament screening"

They tried that in a few places, it usually just translated to "black people can't own guns" or discrimination based on the screener's impression of that person. "Screening for temperament" is akin to literacy or other such tests before voting.

Anyone can lie/spin a form test, similar to the customs form you get when you fly into the country, everything else is subjective and grounds for a discrimination law suit.


>> Oddly, the NRA seems more even more opposed to licensing than they are on restricting magazine capacity.

That's probably because licensing creates a list of who has them. They're afraid such a list will make it easy to take them away at a later date.

BTW, I kind of regret bringing up such a hot topic as an example rather than thinking harder for examples. Now I recall the attempt by media companies to get DRM into every A2D converter to plug the "analog hole" - that's technically impossible and it never went anywhere, but it's another example of the thinking.


"Universal background check" is code for registration: http://cqrcengage.com/azcdl/UBC

Hand your rifle to a friend in Washington state? That's a (unconstitutional) felony.


This is how it is in Canada, and it sucks.

Some rifles are classified as unrestricted don't have to be registered, while other rifles which accept the exact same rounds and magazines are classified restricted. Licenses must be obtained to even move them, let alone lend, give, or sell to someone else.

At least advances in manufacturing technology will make this nonsense impractical eventually.


It worse than you think :

I have a friend who is a machinist. He made himself a fully working replica of a 3 pounder black powder cannon (shoots it at festive and the like).

As the cannon ball it shoots travels at less than 500 fps, it is classified as a pellet gun and doesn't have to be registered.

We are in eastern Canada.


What is better than partially restricted arms trade and movement?

Being able to create any arm, any where, at any time!


Just because all of the proposals from legislators to make background checks mandatory for all purchases involve de facto registries doesn't mean that it's impossible to implement it without registries.


Maybe that's technically true, honestly I doubt it, once you give information to the gov, it keeps it. Legal or not. Evil-doers care not about whatever law anyway, it's just a burden and an obvious infringement on the people's right to keep and bear arms.

What's next? Background checks for 3D printers? Maybe some DRM to keep us safe?


> Evil-doers

Are these people that just have the "evil bit" flipped to true? Tossing around the word "evil" just seems like you're asking for a politicized "debate."


That's fair. Kinda. I'm referring to the people who unjustly kill. I should have said "murderer".


NOTE I don't want to get into the politics of gun ownership. Just fact seeking.

I was under the impression that the AR-15 is very readily available? Do these not count as assault rifles?


An assault rifle is a select-fire (having the option of more than one shot per trigger pull) rifle shooting an intermediate cartridge. An AR-15 is not an assault rifle because it isn't a select-fire. The M16, which the AR-15 is based on, is an select-fire weapon and is thus is an assault rifle.

The main difference between an AR-15 and a hunting rifle is that the hunting rifle tends to use a more powerful cartridge. The rest is cosmetic.


I'm not trying to be obtuse but don't most hunting rifles still work on a bolt action model thus requiring an operator to chamber a round manually whereas the AR-15, and rifles like it, 'automatically' chambers the next round in a fraction of a second.


Depends on your definition of "hunting rifle". A lot of hunters use bolt-action rifles, yes. But a lot of (at least American) hunters also use semi-automatic rifles.

The labels on these things end up being one of the core problems. What is an assault rifle? What is a high-cap magazine? Certainly these terms are familiar to those of us with experience with firearms. But to hear politicians throw the terms around, you'd think they had no clue (and I suppose they often don't), even though they supposedly have "experts" on hand to help them make their decisions. What it (usually) boils down to is people with a decision already made going into the "decision-making process" and justifying their already-made decision with whatever materials and personnel they have on hand.

Which is the wrong way to run anything, let alone a government.


I can't say "most" but there are plenty of semi-automatic rifles used for hunting, at least in the US.

The legalities of what kind of rifle you're allowed to use to hunt what where and when and the particular ammo and how big of magazine can be used are somewhat arbitrary and vary from state to state and game animal to game animal. I think at least 48 at states allow some form of hunting with semiautomatic rifles.

In some parts of the country "Bubba'd" SKS guns are pretty popular for hunting deer I think. (Google image search "bubba gun sks" for a general idea of what's going on - converting a wood stock and 10-round stripper clip magazine to polymer with detachable box magazines, which is a pretty good illustration of how the same gun can look a lot different.)


Hunting rifles range all over the place. Deer rifles range from semi-automatic, to pump-action, lever-action, bolt-action, break-action single shot, and others I'm probably not familiar with. Semi-auto rifles are not a new development- there are a huge number of M1 carbines and M1 Garant rifles in private hands dating from WW2, and there were Browning and Remington semi-auto hunting rifle models earlier than that.


I'd guess bolt action rifles are more popular, but both bolt action and semi-automatic rifles are readily available and widely used for hunting.


I have a semi-auto Browning 12 gauge. Sadly, I've never fired it. Apparently it's really fun.


afaik most hunting rifles are semi automatic (that's what you're describing and how the AR15 works)


> The M16, which the AR-15 is based on

Actually it's the other way 'round - the AR-15 came first; the M16 is based on it. Also, detachable magazines are often cited as another requirement for classifying a rifle as an assault rifle.


Adding to what user wl already said - 'assault rifle' is a really vague term, but historically it is defined as a rifle that soldier can use to provide a covering fire to himself while assaulting an enemy position. Before first 'assault rifles' appeared comrade soldiers where supposed to provide suppressive fire during an attack. And from that definition it is clear that semi-auto weapon cannot be considered an 'assault rifle'.


I think this comes down to the difference between banning things that nobody really wants (lead in paint) versus things that people really want (drugs, alcohol). In America, guns are in the second category.

Politicians think encryption is in the first category.

Edit: given how this discussion is going, I think we're back to the idea that encryption should be classified as a weapon in the US and subject to second amendment protection, as the 2nd is much more strongly defended than the 4th or 5th or even the 1st. (This argument obviously doesn't make any sense in the UK, where we should lean on article 1 and 6 ECHR). A country where you can have an AR-15 but not AES-CBC makes no sense, but we have to work with the politics as they are.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2044529/decryption-orders-cou...


> Politicians think encryption is in the first category.

Not necessarily; I don't think they're quite stupid enough to think that encryption is not needed. (Perhaps once upon a time that was the case, when encryption was a munition regulated by ITAR.)

Rather, politicians are under the impression that it is, or should be, possible to have encryption that protects against anyone except their own government, that that's something they should get to ask for in the first place, and that that's just as good as un-broken encryption. None of those things are true, but good luck telling a politician that something necessarily needs to be beyond their control in order to function correctly.


The first amendment is actually far more strongly defended than the second. It's settled law at this point that exceptions to the first amendment must pass strict scrutiny, which means that there must be a compelling government interest in play, the restriction must be narrowly tailored to protect just that interest, and the restriction must be the least restrictive way possible to protect that interest. In practice, few laws pass strict scrutiny. In contrast, courts are still hashing out which level of scrutiny must be used when deciding second amendment cases.


> Politicians think encryption is in the first category.

This -- until people realise that their online banking is not secure without encryption. That puts it firmly into the second category for many people.

(It's my experience that people are more worried about their money than their dick pics.)


> This -- until people realise that their online banking is not secure without encryption.

For some time, only online banking was allowed to use strong encryption on the web. There was a special kind of certificate, which could be issued only to financial organizations, which told browsers they were allowed to use strong cipher suites.


(It's my experience that people are more worried about their money than their dick pics.)

For one thing, most people have at least some money, while the desire to photograph one's genitals (and especially, after having done so, to keep the results private) is relatively rare.


honestly, with the economy as it is today and the growth of social media based image/sexting/hookup services I'd argue the opposite is true.


They'll probably be the next generation of internet currency.


> I think we're back to the idea that encryption should be classified as a weapon in the US and subject to second amendment protection

I never understood that position. Based on the argument that encryption is a mechanism for speech, why not classify it as speech?


Encryption is like armor for information. Armor is a weapon.

Don't ask.


It's not an entirely serious position.


First of all, assault rifles are not on the open market in the U.S. and haven't been for quite some time.

U.S. armed violence has a lot more to it than the availability of weapons; statistics are easy to misinterpret as well, since they're really just the proportion of violent crimes that are committed with one particular tool.

Here in Canada, we have higher instance of violence with knives, but unsurprisingly almost the same proportion of violence with guns, despite fairly hefty controls.

The U.S. really just seems to have more violent crime in general than many other countries, and my understanding is that this has been true since well before anyone else had harsh restrictions on the legal ownership and use of firearms.

> I have read some arguments about private protection against excessive government excesses, but I don't really buy it.

The theme of the article is these excesses; if you're not making the connection here, you're never going to make it. Also, incidentally, that's the reason it's in the constitution; I hear that it's an important document over there, but what would I know?

The other good reason for widespread private ownership of firearms is protection against occupation by an invading force, which history has shown to be an unpopular tactic; though perhaps this is not comparable. IIRC the imperial Japanese even stated this as why they weren't interested in occupying U.S. soil.


I once read that the largest standing army on the planet is in the U.S. on the opening day of deer season. Not sure if that's factually accurate but it does sound formidable.

Consequently the best firearm a guerrilla fighter can own is a high powered hunting rifle with a good scope. Also, the average hunting rifle sold in the U.S. is better than the sniper rifles we recovered in Iraq. Nothing is more demoralizing to an invading force than snipers, except perhaps anti-personnel mines.


Are all those rifle owners regular active hunters? How many of the hunters possess military caliber marksmanship? Stalking a deer through a forest and sniping members of an invading enemy both involve shooting rifles at moving targets. Being holed up in a sniper's nest during a shooting war and taking out human targets that are aware of your presence and either shooting back directly or trying to relay your position to better placed or equipped comrades and all the while moving fast and erratically would be extremely challenging for non military trained folk, hunters and otherwise.

More significantly, which countries do you think are in a position to attack the lower 48 states? Canada and Mexico. Can't see that happening any time soon. Sadly, an American on American conflict seems far more likely than a foreign invasion, but even that would require a a civil society and social order break down of unprecedented scale.


| Being holed up in a sniper's nest during a shooting war and taking out human targets that are aware of your presence and either shooting back directly or trying to relay your position to better placed or equipped comrades and all the while moving fast and erratically"

That's not deer hunting, that's duck hunting.


I'm just going to compare murder rates between Canada and US. Murder is harder to fudge. Using data from different years. Maybe that invalidates the conclusion, but I'm guessing it holds in general.

> Here in Canada, we have higher instance of violence with knives, but unsurprisingly almost the same proportion of violence with guns, despite fairly hefty controls.

Firearm homicide in the US per 100k: 3.55 [1] Firearm homicide in Canada per 100k: 0.51 [1] Homicide rate in the US per 100k: 4.7 [2] Homicide rate in Canada per 100k: 1.6 [2]

Proportion of homicides from firearms in the US: 3.55/4.7 = 76% Proportion of homicides from firearms in Canada: 0.51/1.6 = 32%

Not sure what to make of the numbers. But it doesn't seem like Canada has "the same proportion of violence with guns".

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-r... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...


>Murder is harder to fudge.

Actually it is quite easy. For evidence, see

>Firearm homicide in the US per 100k

>Proportion of homicides from firearms

That you can so easily switch between murder and homicide makes the numbers really easy to fudge to most people who don't consider the differences between the two.


I am not following you. Do the differences really matter in this case?

EDIT: Don't read this as snarky disagreement. Rather, Im just confused and genuinely want to understand.


Simply put, homicide can be constructed to include suicides as well as accidental deaths. While these are issues with guns, they aren't the same issue as murder and should be treated differently (consider how often you see "pool related homicides" when discussing accidental drownings of children). Even if one was going to include them, then they should be clear when they are using terminology that is not only often misunderstood by readers but which has been knowingly used by others to mislead.

This is not to say that these other issues should be ignored. Having a gun in the home is more likely to make a suicide attempt result in death and that is an issue that should be discussed and dealt with. But it should be done so openly and recognizing it is a separate, though related, issue.


I should have just wrote "homicide" instead of "murder". The two sources I gave separate suicides from homicides.


The problem is that you people like to extrapolate from one small scenario where the law will work without considering the greater practicality or long-term effectiveness of the law. The scenarios ignore basic facts about humans and technology. The simple fact is humans are resourceful and criminals have proven to be very dedicated.

Consider two things,

a) Regarding:

> in particular, it would take a lot to convince me that private ownership of assault rifles is anything but bad news.

The technological different between an 'assault rifle' and a semi-automatic hunting rifle is very small. As Cody Wilson has demonstrated, with a few 3d-printed parts you can turn a simple rifle - which is already restricted by law from being an assault rifle - into a fully blown assault rifle with a relatively small amount of technical knowledge.

The same was true for decades with anyone with metal machining skills.

So how much of a difference will it make if the tech available is merely restricted and not banned? If you can easily modified the technology?

b) The proposed encryption laws must insist that they won't interfere with American corporations from creating, selling, and exporting encryption to valid purchasers. The development of better-and-better encryption will not stop. It will still be one of Americas greatest exported technologies. An industry the US dominates (software).

So now taking that into consideration, will it be feasible to stop criminals from getting access to encryption?

Similar to encryption, America is the largest exporter of weapons in the world - unlike the UK or Scandinavian countries.

The simple fact is that there will be a huge market of both weapons and people (with specialized-skills) which will leak their guns/knowledge onto the black market. Combine that with the internet and decentralized tech and you have a very challenging regulation environment.

At best, it will be become yet another 'arms race' between criminals/police that is ultimately a net-negative investment for society (see: drugs).


> The same was true for decades with anyone with metal machining skills.

This. Also consider there are people with machine shops all over the country that make AR-15's from scratch. These are so-called "custom" firearms. Would we have to go around shutting down all machine shops if we outlawed "black" (named for the blueing) guns?


I just wanted to throw that in there for variety and because the existing controls don't actually stop the problem (I don't deny that they may help). Any place that still has guns in some form can still have those kinds of incidents. The guy at Sandy Hooke used someone else's legally obtained gun. Or in other words, the previous attempts to legislate away the problem didn't work in that case. There are other less controversial examples, but they don't come to mind as quickly.


I am not american either, so what? you completely disregard that any handgun, including these mythical "assault rifles" (which is stupid term by definition, it's usage which defines purpose, so why there aren't any assault pistols?) is just a tool, needing a trained hand to be used. as described below, automatic weapons are not purchasable for civilians, only their modified versions that allow single shot per trigger pull, thus making them effectively small caliber hunting rifles. If you need those, only with special hard-to-get permits, or you need to join the army (and kill few poor people for free)

if you want to stop some crazy people killing with these "assault guns" (why not called home defense guns?), you should focus on removing given dangerous individual from society, and not trying remove their access to weapons. Anything can be used to kill, including scissors, saw, pipe, baseball, knife or just good old pure hands. with current logic, all these things should get outlawed too. No statistics in hand, but I am damn sure the amount of people killed by legally purchased "assault rifles" compared to say hit & run with cars is neglible. with similar logic I say ban cars! (and it would do so much good in other ways...)

P.S. one last thing - pro-gun-ban people completely disregard gun shooting as a means for hunting and as a fun activity at range. Many weapons, including mentioned AR-15 (civilian version of popular M16) will never be shot outside shooting range. Why use higher caliber guns instead of some puny .22? Because it's more fun!

Ah wait, we're talking maybe to same people that banned almost harmless marihuana and happily kept tobacco and alcohol roaming free on markets...

DISCLAIMER: I never owned any handgun that would require any form of registration, yet before having strong statements about what should/shouldn't be banned, I at least educate myself. Gun ban laws are, apart for some corner cases, just pure crowd idiocy and hypocrisy.


> including scissors, saw, pipe, baseball, knife or just good old pure hands

All the things you listed require close distance, physical contact, possibility of attacker responding, and almost literally: blood on your hands. Any range weapon provides distance, more "comfort", and a higher degree of safety for the attacker.

If we can reduce that disconnect from what people are doing, then why not?


Pssh. Next you'll say drone strikes are somehow morally problematic because you can end lives by clicking a button to make dots go away.

/s


I am Australian and mostly agree with the gun laws in my country.

>P.S. one last thing - pro-gun-ban people completely disregard gun shooting as a means for hunting and as a fun activity at range. Many weapons, including mentioned AR-15 (civilian version of popular M16) will never be shot outside shooting range. Why use higher caliber guns instead of some puny .22? Because it's more fun!

From my understanding, removing these guns will save lives, at least one. Why is having fun more important than peoples lives?

I genuinely do not understand. Things like Marihuana only `hurt` the user for the most part where guns, if they hurt someone, is almost always not the user.


I'm a Brazilian, and I completely supported the creation of the gun control laws we currently have.

That said, I think our data is clear enough. As soon as we took the guns out of the streets, violence started to increase in a much bigger rate, and we are now almost in a civil war situation. Looks like the US stereotypical idea of a good men with a gun being the best deterrence to a bad men with a gun bears some truth.


The UK and Australia had the opposite experiences. But they are islands and already had fairly strict gun control. May I suggest that perhaps Brazil's efforts to systematically eliminate guns may have been less successful than anticipated.


The vast majority of gun violence in the US is gang / drug based. We have a violence problem, not specifically a gun problem. Thats due to a number of issues like poverty, lack of education, drugs, and the cycle of poorer people going in and out of prison.

Excluding suicides, the rest is what I consider the cost of our country owning guns. We will never have the utopia of zero gun violence with 300,000,000 privately owned firearms in this country and the 2nd amendment isn't changing anytime soon.

What we could reduce though are the problems I outlined first. Poverty, education, drug use, and the jail cycle. Those are harder problems than just pointing at guns though, so they don't get suggested as much.


It doesn't matter whether you "buy" the arguments about why gun ownership is necessary. It's a guaranteed right codified in our country's founding document, end of discussion.


I think you mean an "Amendment" e.g. a "Change" to your countries founding document, subject to interpretation that pretty much throws out the first half. If you are going by the founding document, then you wouldn't have the rights anyway (and a hell of a lot less in general)

And if amendments are permanent, well, then prohibition should still be in force.


The amendments don't grant rights; they limit government. That's why we call them inalienable rights. You cant "amend away" these things. Of course that doesnt stop power from trying.

Preamble to the (confusingly named) Bill of Rights: The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.


> The amendments don't grant rights; they limit government.

They limit government by defining, in the fundamental law, rights that are prortected against government encroachment. Those aren't mutually exclusive alternatives, one is the means by which the other is achieved.

> That's why we call them inalienable rights. You cant "amend away" these things.

The quasi-religious belief that there are rights that exist "in nature" prior to law and which all governments are obliged to observe is a popular one -- and was with the founders -- and part of the basis for the use of the term "inalienable right". However, the exact parameters of such "inalienable" rights are far from uniformly agreed even among those who subscribe to the belief that they exist. You absolutely can alter which of the rights that some people believe to be inalienable are protected by a government through amendments; note, for instance, that quite a lot of people from the time of the founding through (and no doubt past) the time when this was, in law, settled at the point of a bayonet by the 13th Amendment, thought that the widely-accepted-as-inalienable right to property included the right to hold human beings -- and particularly for whites to hold blacks -- as personal property.


> You absolutely can alter which of the rights that some people believe to be inalienable are protected by a government through amendments

Yes and no. The point of the "inalienable rights" was that they were given to people by God, and therefore nobody - not king or president, not parliament or congress - has the authority to take them away. They may have the power to declare that we don't have them, but they don't have the legitimate authority to do so.

But now we (as a society) no longer believe in God, and no longer believe that we are made in His image. When that changed, "inalienable rights" (in the original meaning) died - except for those who still believe in God as creator of humans.


The concept of inalienable rights does not require supernatural powers for validation. Saying we have these rights merely by being born human is exactly as logical as relying upon creatures whose existence cannot be proven. Nothing has been taken away by society's turn from mysticism. In fact, I feel that saying my natural right to speak, to defend myself, to live privately as I choose, is much stronger than if it is simply derived from a posited creator. I feel these rights are clearly mine by birth, and they have never been merely granted to me, not even by a currently-favored fairy tale.


> The concept of inalienable rights does not require supernatural powers for validation.

Sure, it can stand as a moral axiom on its own (and, heck, even when it is used in the context of a supernatural power, that's not really a logical validation/justification, simply another element of the story, and they still are independent moral axioms.)

OTOH, it makes the fact that they are moral axioms and not grounded in anything else a bit more obvious than the "God says so" version. Its pretty easy for people to reject bare moral axioms that other people offer.


But why does being born give you the natural right to speak, to defend yourself, and to live privately as you choose? Looking back at the last few thousand years of human history, I see no basis for saying that those are inherent human rights that are yours simply because you were born.

A deist would say that humans inherently have those rights (from God), but that human governments and societies have illegitimately suppressed them. You (I suspect) would also say that human governments and societies have illegitimately suppressed them. But given that humans often have not enjoyed those rights, what basis (other than simply asserting that it is so) do you have for claiming that humans have those rights?


Because you are a human being. Why else? Do you think some people are born as subjects?


> Because you are a human being.

I gather that you find that argument convincing, but I suspect it's because you already accept the conclusion. To someone who does not already accept your conclusion, your argument is not likely to be very convincing.

> Do you think some people are born as subjects?

Yes, they are. Look at history; even look around today. It's not right, it's not moral, but it clearly is true that it happens.


You appear to be confusing having ones natural rights violated with not having them. As if the subject has somehow lost the right to rebel because they are oppressed. Given your initial question of "why does being born give you the natural right" it's hard to understand how on one hand you agree that being a subject is (obviously) not moral but at the same time don't accept the reason that all people have natural rights because humans should have the same natural rights (because as you noted, anything less is not moral). Pointing out that some are oppressed in practice misses the point.


I think I'm confusing you, but I don't think I'm confused.

I agree with you that people have inalienable or natural rights. However, I claim that your position does not give you an adequate basis for believing that. And your position certainly does not give you an adequate basis for persuading anyone who does not already accept it.

Perhaps I expressed this badly in my previous post, but that's what I'm trying to say.


"I agree with you that people have inalienable or natural rights."

Great. So what's your reason?


I'm back with the signers of the Declaration of Independence: "endowed by their Creator". And that's why their inalienable - because nobody has the legitimate authority to supercede His giving of these rights.


Couldn't agree more. I was deliberately avoiding the creator angle, mostly because (I think) it's not necessary to believe in a creator to grok the morality of equal rights (oldmanjay said it better). Perhaps I misunderstood your comment about deists. I sincerely appreciate the discussion.



> It's a guaranteed right codified in our country's founding document, end of discussion

That doesn't mean you can't change it. You realize your constitution is pretty recent right?


Not only governments do excessive excesses. In some places the government's caring hand might not be very present, in which case criminals being the only dispensers of firearms has some interesting (and predictable) consequences.


I find that most of the people calling for the control (and ultimate abolition) of gun ownership have had the luxury of never living in a place where there is a real threat of danger, either from animals or other people.


disarming a population is generally the first step towards oppression of freedoms and loss of rights recognition.

'Sides, everybody's far more polite when everyone's packin heat.


> They think they can legislate anything they want

For Americans at least, that mentality has evolved over time as we further distance ourselves from the Constitution and its Amendments; trying our best to ignore their very clear limits on the capabilities of each branch of government. In today's American society, a diverse (and often mutually disagreeing) set of groups see the limits set in the Constitution as quaint and outdated, too inflexible for the modern world. Some see the Fourth Amendment as unreasonably limiting the effectiveness of national security and law enforcement. Some see the Second Amendment as a relic of a more violent world. Some see the First Amendment as intolerant of intolerance. Some see the Ninth and Tenth Amendments as needlessly frustrating the federal government's ability to quickly "fix" problems.

Today, I find the Constitution—and more importantly, those who bring it up in polite political conversation—to as often as not be marginalized as "extreme" or, worse, comedic. There is a rough equivalence of "Constitution" with "Murica" (or similar slang insults depending on the point of view of the person who sees the Constitution as an irksome trump-card used to roadblock their agenda).

As someone who believes the Constitution was a work of genius that facilitated this country's ascent, I also feel that for all our modern failings, the Constitution is one of the remaining bulwarks helping keep us afloat. I am sad when I see it attacked so successfully and relentlessly by myriad disagreeing groups. Those who seek facile, overreaching, and quick government solutions to complex problems routinely want to ignore the limitations set by the Constitution, not realizing that deliberation and careful thought were and should remain a cornerstone of our governmental model.


Sorry, but I think you're being historically obtuse.

This isn't anything new at all. The entire core debate of federalism versus anti-federalism (or to put it in perspective of historical figures, the Alexander Hamilton way against the Thomas Jefferson way) has been something going on since before the country was even conceived, and it goes on to this date.

Your portrayal of constitutional originalism being some gold standard from the "good ol' days" that we have since fallen out of grace from, is thus, completely ahistorical.


Disagreement with the Constitution is certainly not new and I am not describing an increase in disagreement with the Constitution. I am describing a diminishing significance of the term "unconstitutional" as a counterargument to agendas that (strictly speaking) are in fact unconstitutional. In the country's earlier history, the constitutionality of laws was considered a more important factor to predicate their existence. If an argument were made that a law would be unconstitutional, that presented at the very least a significant hurdle to clear.

Are you saying you disagree that the Constitution is considered less relevant today than it was in the earlier history of the United States? If so, that's fine; we simply disagree.

Certainly the past were not "the good ol' days," and nothing about what I said is to suggest the past was a better time than the present. Technological progress alone makes today immeasurably more luxurious. Rather, my point was that the Constitution and the limits have been diluted with each circumventing event made for the sake of facile law-making and problem-fixing. And today the Constitution is more often than not seen as quaint.

Maybe you're right; maybe the percentage of Americans who see the Constitution as outdated and irrelevant has remained steady over time. I don't have polling data. But from my personal experience, even in my lifetime, the marginalization of arguments based on the constitutionality of laws appears to have grown. It now seems that bringing up the Constitution as a roadblock to new lawmaking is considered a tired, predictable, and ultimately weak talking point in a debate.


Are you saying you disagree that the Constitution is considered less relevant today than it was in the earlier history of the United States?

Yes.

If anything, our First Amendment rights are now more robust than they were in the past. We have almost nothing like a modern-day equivalent to Anthony Comstock. The amount of obscenities you can get away with these days is higher thanks to people like Al Goldstein, Lenny Bruce and Larry Flynt setting historical free speech precedents. Labor movement violence is a thing of the past. The sexual revolution means pornography went from obscene to "meh, whatever". Film censorship no longer happens as much as it did in the period before the 1960s. The export restrictions on cryptography have been heavily softened to the point of being almost practically irrelevant. Left-wing politics, though hardly major, are no longer subject to any real suppression beyond punditry's ignorance.

As for the other amendments you listed, I presume they're in reference to mass surveillance. In which case, civil asset forfeiture dates back to maritime law, NSA has been documented to intercept ingoing telegraphs as far back as 1945, Operation Mockingbird had the CIA meddle with U.S. media, FBI has had COINTELPRO, DCSNet and other operations, so on and so forth. Nothing here is new.

You're viewing the past through exceptionally rose-tinted glasses, honestly.


>Left-wing politics, though hardly major, are no longer subject to any real suppression beyond punditry's ignorance.

This is not really true. Left-wing political groups are still actively suppressed by police organizations on a regular basis, as well as Islamic groups (religious and secular), LGBT rights groups, and generally anyone involved in protesting. Police see protest groups as antagonists and act to disrupt them pre-emptively if possible.

The sources for this claim are broad; I would recommend looking into the leaked maryland state police spying documents (which show infiltration of non-violent activist groups), the FBI, local police, and bank conspiracies to disrupt the Occupy movement (long before any actions in the real world had been conducted by any group identifying as Occupy), and the Green Scare.

Combine this with "free speech zones," protest permits, and other before-the-fact restrictions on free assembly, and you can see very clearly how political speech outside the mainstream is suppressed in the United States.

(Interestingly, right-wing groups, white nationalism groups, and similar are not often targets of these investigations and are often protected by police during their protests. In many cases this is the result of local connections, but you have to wonder why animal activists are such a higher priority than white nationalist extremists, especially after Charleston.)


It's a far cry from The Red Scare, though, which was his point.


In what sense is it a far cry from the Red Scare? Which Red Scare, for starters? There have been two purges of leftists from American civil society in the 20th century, and both of them attempted (from the look of the outcomes) to marginalize leftist politics as far away from the mainstream as possible, to wreck the lives of anyone involved in leftist politics, and to discourage people from those politics due to the fear of the Inquisition turning its eye on them.

Of these goals, the first is no longer relevant (the media keeps leftists and similar out of politics far more effectively than periodically purging the State Department of leftist party members ever did). The second is very real and continues to be accomplished by various police agencies. Because of modern "terrorism" laws, various methods of protest are criminalized as terrorism (mostly pertaining to protests that disrupt businesses, like picket lines or sit-ins), and so protest groups can find themselves targeted by fusion centers, special anti-protest task forces, and federal policing agencies (like the DHS).

Finally, the last goal continues to be enshrined today. Free speech zones and militarized police presence at protests makes protesting a much less empowering act than it was in the 60s and 70s -- imagine if Norman Morrison had burned himself in a free speech pen miles from the Pentagon! Going to a protest now entails locking oneself in a cage and being stared down by beefy, roided-up cops that are actively trying to attack protesters and see protesters as an enemy force. Use of grand jury investigations, fusion centers, task forces, entrapment, and finally, the persistence of social media, makes it hard to join nonviolent groups without the fear of "something" coming up that could ruin you for life. The programming in American educational systems about "keeping Facebook friendly for colleges and employers" supports this self-censorship.

If you look into what is actually going on, possibly by researching some of the topics I mentioned in my last comment, you'll find that modern suppression of non-mainstream politics is indeed comparable to the red scare. The fact that it no longer occurs to such fanfare indicates that such behavior has been normalized on the part of the state.


Very well. I tentatively stand corrected on the historical significance of unconstitutionality as an effective means to stop unconstitutional government behavior.

Nevertheless, and perhaps in part because the Constitution has in fact been routinely steamrolled in the past, it seems that bringing it up as a counterargument to any law today is just short of pointless.


Part of the issue is that the very first people to steamroll the Constitution were... well, some of the very people we're supposed to look to as having known exactly what the Constitution meant. The Alien and Sedition Acts, for example, became law in 1798, and were passed and supported by some of the people who just a decade earlier had been expounding "the original meaning" of the Constitution to people in an attempt to get it ratified.


The constitution was written primarily as philosophy, not politics. It has some new principles but ignoring it is nothing new. The founding fathers wrote it and then immediately threw it in the garbage (and not just technical rules, the principles upon which it is based) when the going got tough (Alien and sedition acts for a very explicit example)


I believe the Constitution was a work of genius, but I also believe it was conceived at a scale we've long since surpassed, and it's overdue for a massive refactoring. If nothing else, our current technological base enables a tremendously larger pool of representatives, for instance.


I agree with that problem statement, but it arises I suspect from the desire to do something rather than nothing. After all, if your a politician and someone you care about comes to you with a problem, the last thing you want to say is "Well there really isn't anything I can do about that."

Often banishment by mandate is conceptually easier to grasp than actually fixing the problem. Take any complex problem, for example hand guns and gun violence, you can try to fix the inanimate thing "guns" or the actual thing "gun violence" but often "gun violence" is really just "violence", rooted in a lifetime of hurts and little access to support, but "gun" is something you can ban from the market. Easy to walk up to someone and say "you have a gun, that is banned." into the jailhouse you go, it is much harder to walk up to say "you have unresolved anger management issues with an inability to control those impulses with respect to your fellow humans, into the sanitarium you go."

The latter case fixes the problem and the former case fixes one of the symptoms. We all know that angry people without regard for human life don't need a gun to kill people, they can do that with cars, or baseball bats, or rocks for that matter. But it is easier as a politician to try to patch over the symptom because sometimes you can make that happen.


Lawmakers (smart ones, anyway) don't break laws; they make what they want to do legal, and then just do it. Give a person a hammer, and everything's a nail; give a person a lawmaking ability and suddenly everything's illegal. Even when inaction is the wisest course, it looks too much like indecisiveness to be politically feasible.

One of the problems is that we can't figure out a better system of using humans to govern humans. Do you think we'll ever develop the fabled Sci-Fi computer overlord to govern us? Will it end in the traditional "disaster of ignorance", where the members of society return to a child-like state, and are unable to maintain the great machine we've built?


One of the problems is that we can't figure out a better system of using humans to govern humans.

There are a lot of things we can improve, though. First past the post voting systems mathematically guarantee polarized two-party systems aligned on emotionally charged but relatively inconsequential issues. So we should switch to approval voting.

Having the same person purport to represent our interests in everything from which soda sizes we're allowed to drink to whether we can make our own end-of-life medical care decisions leads to incompetent science denialists running the government's science committee, gross ignorance of the consequences of their actions w.r.t. encryption, etc. So we should design a system with separate representatives for each technical domain, combined with an optional directly democratic override on a vote-by-vote basis.

Etc.


It's like you're describing the separation of governance by domain. For instance, instead of having a mayor for a city, we'd have a mayor of telecommunications or technology, along with a mayor of transportation, a mayor of housing and civil engineering, and a mayor of commerce.

These problems pop up with my example:

  * You still need someone to centralize the execution; people are going to want a hierarchy and to have one person at the top.
  * Having 5 mayors means paying 5 times as many people (but they'll be able to work much more in depth in their subject area) 
If you reduce those mayors down to city council members, and have another mayor, it resembles the system in place in many layers of bureaucracy.


I'm thinking more of the legislature, but yes, this is the idea.


> Lawmakers (smart ones, anyway) don't break laws; they make what they want to do legal, and then just do it

Actually, it seems more recently the trend is to do it; and then make it legal retroactively.


"You can't just point at things and tax them"

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/myleene-klass-berat...


Very good point, but the problem of this approach is not that it doesn't work, that things are not possible. It's The conditions under which it is possible, and the undesirable effects.

In other words, it's a naïve approach.

For example, take the Digital copyright problem in the music industry. Almost anyone would agree musicians should get paid; so legislators feel they have to 'solve it'. And indeed legislators can 'solve it' using just that naive approach: make it illegal, put a huge fine to it. So when you download a music, you will consider the risk of getting caught. The issue then is obvious: if you only legislate, the chance of getting caught will be very low, so most people won't care. But if you set the fine/punishment high enough, it's pretty much a given people will start being careful. But how much is enough? If you have a 1 in a million chance of getting caught this has to be astronomically large: if people simply thought about expected value (we don't exactly, just to illustrate), you'd need to charge millions per infringement. It's a totally unreasonable punishment, basically a terrible system. This is (an example of) why symptomatic legislation/treatment often doesn't work: it's grossly ineffective/inefficient, it's usually best (but way more complex/demanding) to address the root causes.

So the best solution to terrorism/criminal activity is obviously not a surveillance state, but unfortunately it works to an extent. I feel legislators don't have at their disposal enough tools to handle the complexity of better solutions. It would be good if we could involve academia/industry way sooner in direct collaboration with legislators, reaching effective solutions -- I feel science is indispensable in finding them for most complex cases.


A gun ban is a reasonable and effective way of reducing the number of school shootings, as any European on here will confirm. Not sure why you brought guns into this argument other than it being a pet issue.


A gun ban would not work in America, which is why he brought it up. The American public is already armed, really likes being armed, for the most part is not registered as being armed, actually truly believes that being disarmed is a prelude to genocide, and openly admit that they would use their arms against anyone who tried to take them.

Remember what happened when the Federal government tried to get some farmer to pay for the grazing land he was using? People several states away showed up with rifles, and they had no skin in the matter. If you tried to take their rifles, they (and many others) would try their best to kill you.

If America were full of Europeans, perhaps it would work. It isn't, so any notion of gun banning in the US is nothing more than wishful thinking at best.


The other question is a matter of scales. Mass shootings are tragic, but vanishingly rare. If you propose to ban or strictly control guns specifically in reaction to mass shootings, you haven't weighed the costs and benefits of doing so.


>actually truly believes that being disarmed is a prelude to genocide

Try, if you can, to provide an example of genocide that wasn't preceded by mass-disarmament of the targeted populace (assuming they hadn't been previously disarmed).


People [from] several states away showed up with rifles

What jail sentences for terrorism offences did they recieve? Or were they shot by police? Or were they white people?

(In other countries, you can't just show up to political protests with weapons!)


Other countries don't have that right enshrined in their Constitution. America does, so of course they wouldn't be hit with terrorism charges, Race doesn't matter here. You can show up to the airport with a gun, and as long as you don't threaten anyone or try to get through the security checkpoint, you won't be arrested. If you are arrested, the arrest will be thrown out of the court. Americans have the explicit right to carry guns in a not-overtly-threatening manner in a great many places that might surprise you.


My oblique point was that "not-overtly-threatening manner" is very subject to racist interpretation. There have been a number of well publicised incidents of black Americans being shot dead due to being wrongly percieved as threats, such as http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/cops-shoot-and-kill-man-holding-t...


> "What jail sentences for terrorism offences did they recieve? Or were they shot by police?"

I think you know the answer to that. The answer is kind of my point, isn't it?

These people are dangerous to push around because they have guns. They realize this. They are not going to relinquish that leverage without a fight.


These people are dangerous to push around because they have guns

This works until a politically opposing group shows up with guns as well.

Would you argue that the group most subject to being pushed around by the state in the US - young black men - would be better off arming themselves?



This actually adds a lot of nuance to the argument -- one of the reasons you can't just legislate anything is that you must take into account not only technical limitations and requirements but also the characteristics of the local population. Different cultures will respond differently to different laws.


Any proof? There are several countries in Europe with relaxed gun laws and we don't have too many shootings. While in Germany ("Gun legislation in Germany is considered among the strictest gun control in the world") we have seen some school shootings...

Could you back your statement with any data?

THe only thing I got proves otherwise:

http://41.media.tumblr.com/4b2648afd425728c741b77cef3ed793e/...


I wonder what that would look like if you looked specifically at handgun ownership rather than overall gun ownership. In the Nordic countries (which overall have quite a lot of guns) the general assumption behind regulation has been that handguns are a problem but rifles are less of one, especially rifles in rural areas. It's a bit puzzling to me that the American debate has focused on "assault rifles", which statistically seem much less of a problem than handguns.

As an example of large differences in ratio, Finland has a fairly high gun ownership rate of around 55 guns per 100 people, but only 5 handguns per 100 people. And while it's common to have a rifle in your truck in rural areas, you can't legally carry around a handgun in the middle of Helsinki.


"A gun ban is a reasonable and effective way of reducing the number of school shootings"

I just wanted to debunk this myth. As you pointed out there is more to it.

I was thinking a lot and I think any sort of gun ownership should be tied to employment and mental status. This is the easiest to filter out people like most of the mass shooters and criminal elements. I am not sure what is required in Finland to own a gun (any kind) but I am sure that it is not like here (at least in some states). There is an entire industry built on buying guns in states that anybody can get one and smuggling it to states with more strict laws. This just helps the criminals to get armed while exposing civilians to violence.

In Switzerland some of the ex-army people can keep they assault rifles and this drives down the chance of violent crime because the criminals know that there can be a trained soldier in the next house who won't hesitate to use the weapon. I try to dig up the study about this.

Please don't use downvoting for disagreement it is not supposed to be used for that. If you disagree reply and show the points where you disagree with me.


Downvoting a post because you don't agree with the argument is silly. I wonder how many downvoters think they are pro-free speech even as they demonstrate their hypocrisy.


This graph says pretty much: if you need a gun in a state with lowest ownership you only need to visit around 10 houses to find one. That's basically "if you want one, you know where to get one". I wouldn't expect the correlation to be very high here.


You might find this an interesting read: http://www.thepolemicist.net/2013/01/the-rifle-on-wall-left-...

In addition, I don't know of any European nations that have outright banned guns, so that point isn't entirely correct.

> Not sure why you brought guns into this argument other than it being a pet issue.

No, it's an entirely valid one and fits the discussion.


He brought it up because it's the perfect analogy. Guns are prolific in the United States and they are protected by their Constitution. Encryption is prolific everywhere and is also (arguably) protected.

Politicians want to ban/control both of them for their own misguided, naive reasons, and in both cases doing so is impossible.


I don't know...if I were Swiss I could probably conclude that mandatory gun ownership is the way to fewer school shootings. But reality is always more complex than that, isn't it?


It's not gonna be simple if you start comparing Swiss citizens with the US citizens.


European here, and I hate guns. But I would not confirm that statement without conclusive evidence.


The problem isn't that they aren't changing anything they couldn't do before, namely reading communications, post, telephones etc have always been accessible to the state. The problem is that technology has allowed two things: a) Secure communications channels the government can't read b) The state to monitor mass communication in a way even the Stasi couldn't using humans

The notion that you should be able to communicate in a way that your government can't monitor if necessary is a comparatively new one, and one you will find an awful lot of citizens don't agree with.


I don't know about this. Yes, in the past, if the government wanted to read your letters or listen to your phone calls, they usually could... if they already knew enough about what was going on.

Today, if you want to securely plan some crime, you set up PGP or whatever and use cryptography. In years past, you might have used a pay phone, or mailed a letter to a neighbor or relative. You could come up with a relatively simple code based on some book you both owned that would be effectively impossible to crack. There were lots of things you could do to avoid spying, if you wanted to.

Historically the government has not been able to automatically monitor everybody's communications if they wanted to, with just resource restrictions preventing it from happening en masse. Historically, the government has always been able to monitor communications only if the targets didn't take adequate precautions. What's changing is that the necessary precautions are simultaneously becoming much more difficult (planning your crimes on a pay phone won't save you anymore) and much easier (the crazy math needed to protect yourself is largely automated).

Really, though, I think the police should suck it up and work with it. Used to be if you wanted to tap someone's phone you'd actually go out and mess with their wires to add a physical tap. The same idea still works! Get a warrant and add a keylogger to their PC, or a microphone to their car, or whatever you need to get the info. Historically, spying on people always took legwork.


>> The problem is that technology has allowed two things: a) Secure communications channels the government can't read b) The state to monitor mass communication in a way even the Stasi couldn't using humans

I think the US mail is more secure, and it's been delivered by the government since way before computers existed. Sure they now scan the meta-data, but the content goes undisturbed except for specific interventions.


No one ever said sovereigns always come to the correct conclusion. That's not their mandate. It's social order. That's why it's important for citizens, and their representatives in this case, to be educated, and have the ability to affect decisions of the government. Sadly those with the most influence right now are simultaneously of narrow vision, and aren't that educated right now.

When Comey says that "two sides are talking past each other" who are on the other side? Because it's inappropriate for him to propose "two sides" are crypto experts and non-experts should be given equal weighting in the debate as if effectively breaking encryption has only mainly upsides.


Legislators job is to legislate, so this makes sense. Making laws IS the only tool at their disposal.

Of course when you're dealing with a hammer, everything will look like a nail.


One potential fix is to insert a countervailing bias into political procedures to make it harder for restrictions on freedom to get passed. For example, one could say that a simple majority (>50%) is enough to repeal rules, increase individual rights, or decrease government authority; but a >=60% majority is needed to do the opposite (create new rules, decrease individual rights, increase government authority).


This paragraph is a manifestation of a problem with how people think about governments: Governments are not conscious or even sentient. There are no physical entities, 'governments', no matter how many times you refer to it in your language. There are interpretable codes, people who execute the codes, and people who assign the codes.


Another one on my list is anti-discrimination laws. A better idea if it absolutely have to be done is to impose anti-discrimination restrictions on specific companies.


Well, a lot of things are possible, but implementing a knee-jerk legislation usually is not a way to achieve it.


When the only tools you have are a pen and a gun...


There is always oppression in a democracy.


The way I see it, law enforcement has had it far too easy for far too long. The Snowden revalations finally turned over all the rocks and people saw that they have been grossly overstepping both ethical and legal boundaries, and encryption is finally getting the mindshare it desperately needs.

So to their petulant cries of being unable to read our communications anymore, I say: fuck 'em. Time to earn your keep now, boys. You're not going to destroy our Internet just so you can keep feeding the mass-surveillance beast.


I want law enforcement to be a difficult, time consuming job.

Idle law enforcement is a terrible thing. When law enforcement has spare time, they will find ways to occupy it. Sometimes it will be by overzealous enforcement of low level laws and other times their idleness will be used an a pretext for politicians to pass even more micro-managing laws.

It's this kind of thing that led to women being arrested for wearing bathing suits that exposed their calves. It's this kind of thing that resulted in young men being arrested for the bad fashion decision of sagging jeans.

When they complain that something will make their job more difficult, I say good. I want law enforcement to be difficult and time consuming so that it loses its luster for the people who want to join up for all of the wrong reasons.


The state has all the power, therefore the burden of proof should be solely on it. This is where the doctrine of presumed innocence comes from.


I have a lot of trouble viewing anything involving the NSA as "law enforcement". Like the CIA, aren't they specifically created to subvert the law in other countries and not operate in their own jurisdiction?


There's no high tech terror for the NSA to fight. So-called intelligence about what Angela Merkel is thinking is of no diplomatic or economic use.

The NSA has almost no purpose in practical government.

But the NSA does do a lot and has a mission. It's the same mission US law enforcement always invents for itself. The NSA provides lots of leads to cops to arrest innocent drug dealers. Aside from parallel construction, the NSA does the same thing most FBI, DEA, and Border Patrol dollars go to: small time non-violent drug offender persecution.


The NSA is also heavily engaged in industrial espionage.

What Angela Merkel has to say may be irrelevant, but having insights into trade deals before they are signed certainly isn't.


Only if you want to try and unfairly tip the balance towards yourselves by outmanouvering your opponents, in which case the unfairness of the resulting trade deals will be obvious to all who read them. Attempting to fuck with an economy the size of Europe's by spying in trade negotiations only leads to problems in the long run.


Collusion, then things like "parallel reconstruction" and inter-agency agreements to keep things dark.

Power always corrupts. The big lie is "No, our motives are to keep you safe, and [list of the usual bad things] can't possibly happen this time."


I used the term loosely, but the FBI director was the one agitating for crypto legislation recently.



> “Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend,”

And there's the nut. The concern of law enforcement is not protection of citizens, it's ease of prosecution and resume building.

No one can claim credit for a general environment of ongoing secure communication, but cops and prosecutors can definitely claim credit for specific arrests and prosecutions, even if that general security environment is all but destroyed.

In fact, the more breaches, the more crimes, the more cops and prosecutors are needed. Job protection.


The headline belies the utter ridiculousness of the idea. Why would the United States and United Kingdom be singled out to have backdoor access to all communications? To hang onto the tattered remnants of their empires while keeping their own people in line despite their declining political legitimacy.


If one looks around they will see most political regimes are very interested in keeping their "constituents" in line and maintaining their political legitimacy. As such it isn't a phenomenon specific to the west, it simply appears to be discussed here as we have slightly more open media than in other countries who would dearly love to have the same access to encrypted data.


I actually wouldn't be surprised at all if the US and UK governments would be perfectly fine with China, Russia and so on being able to hack and spy most of their citizens and companies as long as they could also do that.

From their point of view it might be quite a good trade-off, because they probably think it's far more useful for them to spy and hack US and UK citizens than it is for China and Russia.

And they also probably think that they, the elites, could use something better than what everyone else uses, too. So there's no negative to this.


The united States isn't an empire, that's what it was formed to get away from. It's a collection of people, living in different communities called states that strive to stay united to form a more perfect union. It isn't a perfect experiment because people are not perfect but it's the best effort history has seen so far.


Tell that to the countries the US keeps invading. At the very least Grenada, Iraq (2003), and Panama. But the list is far longer and more complicated (and stretches back fifty years or more).

Nobody would call the US an "empire" if all it did was keep in its own territory and stay out of other country's internal affairs. Nobody calls Canada an empire for example. But the US keeps deciding to outright attack other countries or uses the CIA to subvert internal politics (and sometimes to overthrow democratically elected governments e.g. Iran).

The US deserves to be accused of having imperial intent, even if just based on their interest in other country's oil.


> The US deserves to be accused of having empirical intent, even if just based on their interest in other country's oil.

The word you're looking for is "imperial." "Empirical" means something else entirely.


Heck, tell that to France, who can't manage to root out the US influence in their telcos or their intelligence services, and who are powerless offer asylum to Assange and/or Snowden.


Canada itself isn't an empire, it's just part of one.


I suggest you read Robert Kagan's "Dangerous Nation". It skewers the idea that America is not an empire, and demonstrates that America has always been aggressively expansionist.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Nation-Americas-Earliest-T...


The US clearly hasn't always been aggressively expansionist. It isn't today.

America has had the most powerful military on earth for 70 years, along with a large population. List all of the vast amounts of territory it has annexed using that extraordinary military power. There are endless opportunities to do so, and the US is the sole military with global projection.

Some people point to military bases. Which doesn't work in any regard. A few critical differences being: taxing power on the local population, or vast plunder. Neither of which America is known for. And US military bases around the globe overwhelmingly exist by permission.


You don't necessarily have to annex territory to control it, either politically or economically.


But why bother to control territory unless one gets some benefit from it? Throughout history, nations have sought more territory because most wealth came from land and its use. Annexing territory was the fastest way to grow the tax base.

Controlling territory but not extracting wealth is pointless. The U.S. doesn't extract wealth from its foreign bases; in fact it injects wealth because the bases are paid for by U.S. dollars but the downstream spending goes into the local economy.

And you might think "well the U.S. extracts the wealth through trade." But trade is mutually beneficial (unlike taxes) and the U.S. runs a foreign trade deficit anyway.

The things that the U.S. gets for its projected power are peace and stability. These are things that benefit any nation, though.



That's right, the US was born with those states. They weren't aggressively annexed as a simple matter of controlling foreign territory or anything.


Maybe you think that China is ascendant, but the fact remains that the West is closely aligned and utterly dominant.


It is not a simple east/west matter. States themselves are in a period of declining influence after a historically abnormal 400 years of strong states and a state-based order. Their power to influence culture, drive people's decisions, set prices and drive morals is being eaten by multinational corporations, religious institutions, NGO's, online communities like Reddit and HN, name it. State influence is shrinking, and their best answer is to compensate with power.


Globalization has weakened The State, in general, though not all states equally.


Yes, the West is still dominant but geopolitical and economic power is shifting South and East and Western influence and power is waning. China and the U.S. both know that at the moment each nation is dependent on the other and the collapse of one would have serious repercussions for the global economy.

Hence we get scenarios where China is claiming islands a thousand miles off its coast as domestic territory and while the US Air Force flies overhead and Obama tut-tuts the whole thing is a boundary pushing exercise (no pun intended) and China continues to do what it wants, within reason. China knows that shooting civilians as in Tiananmen Square in 1989 makes for very unflattering optics and jeopardizes the Western trade and investment it needs.

Every day articles and blog posts announces the imminent demise of US and Western power or China's impending economic collapse. It's possible of course but for the moment not very probable. But it is clear that the West is no longer *utterly dominant.


> But it is clear that the West is no longer *utterly dominant

Economically, militarily and culturally they are, what metric are you using?


They can "oppose" all they want.

That's why we have PGP, in open source.

And that's why in the US we have:

"Amendment IV

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I know; I know: Various people working for the people are all wound up about wanting to know and wanting to be sure, wanting to be sure they know just what is in all those e-mail messages. Their thinking might go:

"Those messages, they are sending lots of messages, are they planning something? Are those people up to something? Are we at threat? We want to know. Why do they encrypt their e-mail messages if they have nothing to hide?

"If they have something to hide, then definitely for the good of everyone we should know about it and they shouldn't use encryption. Else they might be planning something. If they have nothing to hide, then they shouldn't mind our knowing and shouldn't use encryption.

"Yes, definitely we should have full access to all e-mail and other communications, computer hard disks, private conversations, private thoughts, etc."

That's what some people working for the people think.

Sorry, guys, I'm one of the people you are working for, and you will just have to do your job without violating the Constitution. It's an old story, as is encryption, and e-mail, the Internet do not fundamentally change the situation.


Your first part is why I always find these talks silly. Encryption (at least the kind they are talking about) is just math - all the laws in the world aren't going to change the math. You can't legislate away the knowledge of that math; even if you force Apple or Google to insert your backdoor into THEIR implementation of the crypto, that doesn't mean that a 'terrorist' couldn't just use their own implementation of the readily available and widely known algorithms. That cat is out of the bag; you can't legislate it back in.


Fully correct. I have

Bruce Schneier, Applied Cryptography, Second Edition: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C, ISBN 0-471-11709-9, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1996.

That material's not going away.

And, in addition, I have some nicely short, not difficult to read, source code. About all the math needed for PGP is in an elementary number theory book -- I have several sufficient references.

> That cat is out of the bag; you can't legislate it back in.

Did you mean "The toothpaste is out of the tube"? -- supposedly the phrase used in the Nixon Watergate scandal!

When Zimmerman made PGP public, he also gave what I thought was a good description of the issues with the bottom line, whatever the pros and cons, net in plenty of cases it's important for individuals to have access to strong encryption.

Yes, no doubt there's no shortage of people in government who don't like PGP. I'll send some people in government some toothpaste and an empty tube and let them try their hand!


Schneier has a newer and more useful update to that book with a co-author


Despite the political element, there is a poor history of keeping these kind of keys/methods secret. See the AACS encryption fiasco, the cable card hacking wars over the last decade, Clipper chip mentioned in the article, etc.


I am also not sure that I want to entrust the keys to the internet to the same government that kept its nukes with launch codes of "00000000"


I don't see the connection. The all-zeroes launch code wasn't an instance of idiocy, it was a deliberate choice by military commanders who felt that codes would make things less safe, not more, because they saw the Soviets as a far greater threat than a rogue launch by their own men, whom they trusted completely. It's not like the code could be entered by random people on the street, if only they had known the power they held. You still needed physical access to the launch control rooms, which had a great deal of physical security and were always staffed by at least two people at any given moment.


My favourite quote on this (from the UK perspective) from Ross Anderson (one of the co-authors): “A point I would like to make to the prime minister and his circle is: whoever put the prime minister up to this should get a complete bollocking. The proposals are wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.”

There is no quicker way of alienating people who understand complex things than by pretending that you know better and have thought of a brilliant solution.


Being HN I'm sure many of us have dreams about future computers that are seamless extensions of our bodies, doing more than we could ever imagine with a phone or a watch.

Do we also have nightmares about a hacker stealing a government's back door key and giving us a heart attack in our sleep?


At this point I'd be more worried about the government giving me a heart attack in my sleep.

They can't and shouldn't be trusted with this kind of power.


Let's be realistic here. The government isn't going to give you a heart attack in your sleep.

The government is going to give millions of people heart attacks, all at the same time, at 5 pm Eastern time on a weekday.

I cite the recent bonehead maneuver, wherein someone--likely backed by a foreign government--managed to access the data for every last person cleared to handle U.S. government secrets, which necessarily includes any embarrassing datum which could be used by foreign governments to apply leverage.

This is Murphy's Law in action. If a catastrophe is possible, it will eventually happen. Combine with Acton's Law. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. The result suggests that, for the sake of sane risk management, government should be structured such that no person working in it (or hijacking its infrastructure) can single-handedly do more than one nuclear bomb's worth of damage.

This means the fundamental principles that have to be engineered in are robustness, trustworthiness, and voluntary cooperation. Built-in backdoors are completely antithetical to all three.


> Do we also have nightmares about a hacker stealing a government's back door key and giving us a heart attack in our sleep?

While hackers interfering with embedded devices in people is worrying I'd be more frightened about bugs in the devices from sloppy minimum cost systems.

While not awesome current stuff is ok(ish) largely because it's a relatively small market so the people in it are better than the average dev.

I've been programming a long time, I'm a reasonably talented developer and I wouldn't touch that stuff at all.


Have you seen Ghost in the Shell? I'm don't more integrated computers are the answer.

But on the encryption front, the more the better. If everyone adds complexity then 'they' have to discriminate more. Which is good for everyone.


If you're going to weigh GITS as fictional evidence, you should at least weigh all other fictional evidence. Though you don't end up with much, except what knowing what people think about these topics.


I have seen Ghost in the Shell, although I'm not clear at what you're getting at.


One thing that stands out in my mind is the ability for someone to make himself invisible or unidentifiable to you by hacking your eyes. If someone can take control of your sensory inputs, they can put you into the "dark dream" to test, model, and eventually control your behavior.

When your eyes are hackable, you cannot take the VR headset off. Even closing your eyelids won't help.

Would you want anyone besides yourself having authorized access to your sensory bus? Would it make you feel any better if the person doing it had a valid court order?


  Would you want anyone besides yourself having
  authorized access to your sensory bus?
Banks' Culture novels touch on similar topics. In Excession, a Culture warship comments how the brain-computer interface (in-universe called a "neural lace") is the most effective torture device ever devised. And in Surface Detail, a firefight turns on the fact that Culture warships write their own completely-customized operating systems, with this heterogeneity making hacking attempts more difficult and consequently less successful.


GitS illustrates the danger of humans integrating with computers too closely ex. Cyberbrain hacking, stand alone complex, etc https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_Ghost_in_the_She...

It's fictional but there's a lot of truth in no matter how important or shielded a target is, it is always vulnerable to attack.


The attack on our ability to encrypt is in the end an attack on the right to private thought. Loosing this, while we merge with our digital creations, is an existential threat.


Perhaps governments need to apporach the problem from a different angle: How can we limit the extent to which bad actors (e.g. terrorists, organisaed crime, etc.) can benefit from private/secure communications technologies without compromising civil liberties and our citizens' right to privacy?

If anyone can solve that problem, surely it's us - the technologists, the problem-solvers?


How is there no mention of CALEA[0] in this document? They even hint at it in the Executive Summary:

Indeed, in 1992, the FBI’s Advanced Telephony Unit warned that within three years Title III wiretaps would be useless: no more than 40% would be intelligible and that in the worst case all might be rendered useless [2]. The world did not “go dark.” On the contrary, law enforcement has much better and more effective surveillance capabilities now than it did then.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Assistance_for_...


"Michael S. Rogers, the director of the N.S.A., has proposed that technology companies be required to create a digital key that could unlock encrypted communications, but divide and secure the key into pieces so that no one person or government agency could use it alone."

Conveniently, Microsoft has a patent on just that. http://www.google.com/patents/US8891772

Michael S. Rogers should disclose any financial interest he may have in Microsoft. Or does he have something to hide?


Shamir's Secret Sharing was published in 1979. I would be surprised if Microsoft has a monopoly on it, given that patent was published in 2011.


As well as one for a Skype backdoor:

http://www.computerworld.com/article/2509604/data-privacy/mi...

Microsoft has some interesting project choices.


There are other ways of achieving this, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamir%27s_Secret_Sharing



They already ban encryption on ham radio... :(

Maybe somebody can start a pay to broadcast service using namecoin atomic name changes https://wiki.namecoin.info/?title=Atomic_Name-Trading 1. Service announces public nmc pay to address. 2. People mail them a message as a name update transaction combined with payment to that address using snailmail. 3. They broadcast if the perceived risk of broadcasting is less than the value of fee provided.

This could be anonymous and encrypted if the source name coins are sufficiently anonymous.


They already ban encryption on ham radio... :(

This bugged me too, but ham is already not general purpose. I've come to accept it as the cost of preventing a disallowed uses of the ham bands inside an impenetrable envelope of allowed use.

And besides, it's usually possible (but less fun) to set up (or use existing) radio networking links in different bands.


I wonder if they will ever be able to ban steganography on ham radio. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography


Would it have killed them to link to the paper?


Can we stop the sharing of pay-walled content please, just pick another source?

ot: What do they (cameron and c/o) think the best case scenario is for this folly? Disrupt a few mainstream services while pissing everyone off in the process whilst the real criminals move on to slightly more obscure services?


> The costs to the developed countries’ soft power and to our moral authority would also be considerable.”

That moral authority undermined in part from the risk of secure government data being exposed, and government operations then being exposed.

Breakable encryption is definitely a double-edged sword.


How would they feel if China and Russia was given the same backdoors? What would they legislate then? It's not as if internet traffic can be quarantined.


Can't it? The Great Firewall is a shining example.

(all irony intended.)


Right - and "the government" isn't a single entity. Members can defect (ala: Snowden and others).


Members can also corrupt, or even just operate too long without the moderating effects of effective oversight.




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