To Save Democracy, We Must Stand Up for Strong Encryption

Ben Grazda is the US Campaigner at Access Now. Shutterstock On May 27, 1789, James Madison, before he was elected as the fourth US president, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson about the state of affairs in the new American republic. In it, he discussed the creation of the first federal agencies and a new list of rights that would be proposed as amendments to the Constitution, which would later become the Bill of Rights.  Notably, this letter was partially encrypted — one of thousands of encrypted letters the founding fathers sent to one another. The privacy of these communications helped to make the formation of the US federal government possible. Today, to preserve the democracy those early legislators built, the US government must extend the same principles to the digital age and guarantee the privacy of communications through encryption.  In simple terms, encryption means encoding information so that the only recipients who can decode it are those authorized by the sender. Encryption prevents surveillance, hacking, and crimes like identity theft. When people communicate using end-to-end encryption, even the service provider cannot access the information. Encryption is often associated with spy movies or IT managers, but it is in fact common and crucial in normal life. Encryption makes mobile banking transactions, online shopping, and other basic online activities safer. It also protects potentially sensitive personal information we may share on secure messaging services like WhatsApp or Signal. It is one of the most critical tools we have for staying safe…To Save Democracy, We Must Stand Up for Strong Encryption