Pretty Good Privacy
stands for "Pretty Good Privacy." It is an encryption program. What
encryption does is hide information from people who do not know the "secret
word" to reveal the information. Louis J. Freeh, the Director of the

Federal Bureau of Investigation, says the honest have nothing to hide, and only
criminals would use encryption. The honest, goes the implication, have no need
of encryption. Let us think about that, for just a minute. The honest have no
need of encryption: they can live completely open lives, and this is desirable.

Their virtue is their defense. This is an attractive argument, but let us see
where it takes us. By this same reasoning, the honest have no need of shades on
their windows. The honest have no need for bathroom doors -- or front doors, for
that matter. The honest have no need to seal the envelopes into which they put
their letters or their bill payments. The honest have no need to take their
credit card receipts -- complete with account number, expiration date, and
signature -- but should just leave them at the sales counter for whoever needs a
piece of scrap paper. The honest have no need to look at anything anyone asks
them to sign, but should just sign. The honest should publish their medical
records in their local newspaper. The honest should have their social security
numbers and birth dates on their checks, along with their names and addresses.

The honest should write their PINs on their ATM cards. I think we can imagine a
world where being "honest" as in these examples would be, shall we
say, "differently clued." I also think that world could easily look a
lot like the one in which we live. Virtue is a defense, and a good one. But
virtue is a defense against false accusation -- not victimization. One would
think the FBI could tell the difference. That I use encryption does not mean I
am a criminal. It means I recognize that there are people about who are, or
could be tempted into being, less than perfectly honorable. This recognition has
a name. It is called "prudence." It is a virtue. What I find truly
amusing, though, is that while the FBI argues that I must be a criminal if I use
encryption, the Privacy Act of 1974 requires that I use it if I interact with
the government. The Privacy Act of 1974 imposes the legislative requirement on
all government agencies to: establish appropriate administrative, technical, and
physical safeguards to insure the security and confidentiality of records and to
protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to their security or
integrity which could result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience,
or unfairness to any individual on whom information is maintained. The Federal
agencies, of course, in turn impose this requirement on their vendors. For
example, the Health Care Financing Administration, through its rule making body,
requires all health care organizations accepting Federal funds (including

Medicare, Medicaid, and Children\'s Health Insurance Program) to use, at a
minimum, 112 bit symmetric key encryption and 512 bit asymmetric key encryption.

The FBI says only a pedophile or terrorist would use encryption of this
strength. When information is confidential, using encryption is not furtive: it
is responsible. We do not normally confuse "prudent" and
"criminal," or "responsible" and "furtive." That
the Clinton administration consistently cannot tell the difference between these
when it comes to encryption is curious. That the Clinton administration feels
the need to convince the rest of us that there is no difference is absolutely
fascinating. The only explanation that springs to mind is that the Clinton
administration has a difficult time distinguishing between "public"
and "private," or imagining that anyone could have a legitimate
secret. Given the number of Clinton administration illegitimate secrets that
have been exposed -- certain adult activities in the Oval Office, and certain
failures to notice espionage by foreign powers that happen to make large
campaign contributions, for example -- I suppose I can understand this point of
view. I do not agree with it, however. It may be that the existence of a pair of
underwear may give the Clinton administration an uncontrollable urge to rummage
around in them. I can imagine the sympathy the Clinton administration has for
someone who really wants to rummage around in someone else\'s shorts, and cannot.

But I believe most people would understand that an urge to rummage around in
someone else\'s underwear should be suppressed, not made a "right"
under law. Maybe after they outlaw encryption, they will outlaw belts -- after
all, belts