There always comes a time when an obscure, yet important concept, leaves the technical world and enters the main stream. Recovering deleted files was one of those where we pretty much knew all along not only that it can be done, but that we have been doing it all along. The Snowden releases were another aspect of ‘yeah, we knew this all along, but the GFP (general f’ing public) was oblivious.
Encryption is just the most current ‘old’ thing to make the limelight. Whenever something like this happens, there are ton of people ringing the end-of-the-world bells, clamoring that national security will be lost, and personal freedoms take a back seat to everything. It happens all the time and when it happens, there is a fire to make new laws on top of thousands of other laws, in which the promise of better safety and security is as strong as a wet paper bag holding your groceries on a windy and rainy day.
Legally, it is super easy to ban, control, and/or regulate encryption. A stroke of the pen with or without citizen oversight can make it happen quickly and painlessly. One signature on the last page of a law that is a ream in size is all it takes.
Practically, it is impossible to completely eliminate or control or regulate encryption. The only thing laws will do is restrict the sale of encryption products by corporations. Encryption exists in the minds of mathematical practitioners and can be recreated over and over again. You can't blank out someone’s brain (I hope not…). Encryption is available everywhere on the Internet, from software programs that are FREE and OPEN SOURCE to download and even in TOYS that can be bought off Amazon.com. These 'toys' work by the way.
Go ahead and ban encryption and people will just buy a $10 toy to create cipher text for emails. Tor use will skyrocket as will third party online privacy providers operating in safe harbors overseas. Banning encryption or breaking the trust of companies like Apple will only result in loss of business for corporations and (more) loss of trust by consumers of both corporations and government. Even if encryption is not banned, but under the complete control of any government, that particular piece of technology won’t be used for anything other than entertainment. No business is going to transmit sensitive intellectual property data through an insecure system. No government is going to use a system that can be more easily compromised by enemies or hackers.
The end result of banning encryption is creating a whole new class of “criminals” who just want to protect their private communications. “Private” does not mean “illegal”. Controlling the source code of Apple is only going to cause Apple to end up with 3 employees who will their only customers. Not even the government will use Apple if they know the source code has been compromised...especially if compromised by the government itself.
Not long ago, I gave a presentation on Internet investigations to a group of law enforcement investigators. One of the first questions I asked was 'Given authority and ability, what would like to see done in regards to the Internet?". Most answers were to 'lock it down', 'watch everything', 'control it all', and "give government complete control". At the end of the presentation, no one felt that way after I explained how that will negatively affect everyone down to the individual person business, including the government. Ignorance may be bliss, but that doesn't make ignorance a good idea.
If this 'ban encryption bandwagon' keeps going, the next thing we will see is envelope regulations requiring the paper to be transparent, just in case the government needs to read your mail without opening it.I also do not believe that there is any one 'thing' that can prevent the apprehension of criminals, prevention of terrorist attacks, or investigation of a crime. If encryption can do all of those, we need better investigative training for our detectives and case officers.