Zimmermann: Public too slow to adopt encryption

Thursday, 31 July 2003, 6:39 PM EST

The reported use of encryption by terrorists has not shaken Philip Zimmermann’s faith in having strong encryption in the hands of the public.

Zimmermann, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy software for protecting e-mail, spoke today at the Black Hat Briefings about the struggle to commercialize the software and his three-year battle with the government over export restrictions.

“That was the central argument argument in the debate,” he said. “At no time did I deny that criminals would use PGP. But we came to the decision that society is better off with strong encryption than without it, even though criminals would use it.”

PGP is a public-key encryption scheme without a supporting infrastructure of certificates and trusted authorities. It is a standalone product that depends on trust between users.

Zimmermann said he originally began PGP “as a human rights project. I got the idea in the 1980s when I was a peace activist.” The idea was to provide a tool to protect the privacy of organizations and individuals around the world who were being investigated by their governments.

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