Andy Greenberg's colorful and nuanced profile of Moxie Marlinspike offers some insight into the young, talented cryptographer whose tool, Signal, is now part of both Whatsapp and (shortly) Allo — an anarchist who walked away from $1M in Twitter payouts after a near-death experience and decided, instead, to build free and open tools to give the entire world the power to keep secrets from the police.
I was especially taken with Greenberg's account of Marlinspike's words on the Cryptographer's Panel at this year's RSA Conference, held in the midst of the debate over whether Apple would be forced to make tools to compromise the security of the Iphone, where he took a hard line on privacy and policing.
The standoff quickly becomes the topic of the RSA panel, and Marlinspike waits politely for his turn to speak. Then he makes a far simpler and more radical argument than any advanced by Apple: Perhaps law enforcement shouldn't be omniscient. "They already have a tremendous amount of information," he tells the packed ballroom. He points out that the FBI had accessed Farook's call logs as well as an older phone backup. "What the FBI seems to be saying is that we need this because we might be missing something. Obliquely, they're asking us to take steps toward a world where that isn't possible. And I don't know if that's the world we want to live in."
Marlinspike follows this remark with a statement that practically no one else in the privacy community is willing to make in public: that yes, people will use encryption to do illegal things. And that may just be the whole point. "I actually think that law enforcement should be difficult," Marlinspike says, looking calmly out at the crowd. "And I think it should actually be possible to break the law."
Meet Moxie Marlinspike, the Anarchist Bringing Encryption to All of Us [Andy Greenberg/Wired]
(Image: Moxie Marlinspike, Unknown, CC-BY-SA)