The 4th of July is upon us. This holiday reminds me of day when I was in high school and learned that I am directly related to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Oliver Wolcott. (See Pic Below). After learning this, I became very interested in how the United States was formed and the rights our founding fathers framed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Now fast forward to today where I am the Chief Security Officer for Silent Circle, a tech company thrust into the spotlight regarding encryption, the crypto wars, and our inalienable rights to privacy.

Oliver Wolcott

Oliver Wolcott

“Considering the natural lust for power so inherent in man, I fear the thirst of power will prevail to oppress the people” (Mason). For those in the United States the crypto wars appeared to have ended when the Supreme Court ruled Gore lost the presidential election, as he was a strong supporter for a key escrow system. In October 2014 FBI Director, James Comey asked Congress to allow for back doors in encryption systems while President Obama has advocated that “the absence of back doors is a problem”. Friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens – a crypto battle was won; the war is not over, it is just beginning.

In the United States, Coffin v. United States established the presumption of innocence of persons accused of crimes. Law Enforcement would request new laws from Congress that would allow for back doors to be used under suspicion of committing crimes. President Obama argues that bad actors are better at using services that make it difficult to track. President Obama further advocates to “..have the ability to track in a way that is legal, conforms with due process, rule of law, and presents oversight, then that’s a capability that we have to preserve”. As Jefferson points out “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual”. In addition, Madison stated “the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted”. In the world of 2015, these rights are not upheld by the US Government, as seen in the OPM hack, therefore to continue to protect these rights we must fight for encryption algorithms free from back doors.

Encryption has been used throughout the formation of the United States. Jefferson himself used the Vigenere cipher to communicate with Madison, Adams, Monroe, Livingston and others. Jefferson used encryption for official and unofficial communications and stated that use of encrypted communications was a means to keep “matters merely personal to ourselves”. In other words, Jefferson believed in the right to privacy. Otherwise, the use of encryption would not be required.

Based on multiple court decisions the right to privacy is derived from the first, third, fourth, fifth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments. According to Froomkin the rights to privacy can be broken into three parts: the right to autonomous choice regarding nonintimate matters; the right to be left alone; and the right to autonomous choice regarding intimate matters. The landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut decided that US citizens do in fact have a right to privacy and this right is the right to rotection from governmental intrusion. Ironic in that on June 29, 2015 the foreign intelligence surveillance court ruled that NSA may resume the mass collection of Americans’ domestic phone records.

As US citizens, we have the right to be left alone, we have the right to choose what is sensitive in our communications, and the right to be protected from government intrusion. Silent Circle provides a means to assist the masses in ensuring our right to privacy in a secure and easy to use methodology. It is my belief that it is our patriotic duty to implement and use technologies that uphold our right to privacy. Here at Silent Circle we will continue to build products that enable privacy and are free from back doors.

Please have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!