If spying on emails/texts was instantly stopped, would it be a good thing?

So the NSA and GCHQ are allegedly spying on all our emails/text messages. What I’ve been wondering, is if (hypothetically) all emails were suddenly encrypted with unbreakable encryption algorithms, and it was guaranteed only the sender and receivers could see the original message, would this be a good thing?

A few implications:

  • Governments wouldn’t be able to see your emails/text messages :slight_smile:
  • Governments wouldn’t be able to see other peoples emails/text messages :-\
  • Governments wouldn’t be able to detect terrorists/criminals from emails/text messages :frowning:
  • Undetected terrorists/criminals may harm you and/or your country :frowning:
  • Governments wouldn’t be able to judge you on private email/text messages :slight_smile: (Might be useful if nutters get in :p)

P.S. Please try and avoid political answers, and stick to ethical/philosophical path of debate.


I am happy for the authorities to intercept and analyse any electronic communication I make, in fact I always presumed they did so anyway.

Why am I happy for this?
I think it is necessary to stop acts of terrorism.

Example: a few years ago the police here arrested a bunch of home-grown terrorists (i.e. NOT foreign nationals) who were allegedly planning to explode a train which I take from time to time ([URL=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Madrid_train_bombings”]à la Madrid).

If it takes the authorities to intercept and analyse my rather boring and rather legal email / phone communication to prevent this, then they should go ahead.

Saying this, I trust the German authorities.
If you live in a country where the authorities are (even vaguely) corrupt, I can imagine the whole question taking on a considerably different perspective.

Basically, if it’s confidential, it shouldn’t be on an internet facing device.

My 2c

I don’t think anyone can argue that it is a good thing when it is used correctly, and saves lives!

Do you have any concerns that your emails might be used against you, to target you, if a more extremist government came to power? Or perhaps emails are a bit of a mute point in that eventuality, as extremist governments in history seem to have been perfectly capable of targeting people without email records anyway.

Hopefully you mean “bad” thing.

I’m not concerned about being targeted by an extremist government, no.
But what I am concerned about is the amount of information companies like Google, Facebook and co. gather about their users.
For this reason I refuse to sign up to Facebook or Twitter (I can’t really avoid using Google) and clear my cookies on a regular basis.
I also have various anti-tracking extensions installed in my browser and browse with JS disabled.

That said, I think the future of the net and of computing is going to change very radically in the not so distant future.
And when I read stuff like this, I don’t think it’s going to be for the better!

I can’t say that I agree with that argument. Where do you draw the line? Hypothetically speaking, if the governments of the world developed technology to read our thoughts, how many people would support that? Surely, that would stop all terrorism because before you can communicate your plans to others you would have to think about it.

If someone was intent on committing an act of terrorism, murder, or any other crime, they really cannot be stopped. Only the dumb criminals get caught (or are dumb enough to commit crime in the first place). Terrorism is a real threat to be sure. Here in the USA 16,000 people are murdered every year. Street-level crime kills a lot more people here than terrorism does.

I clear my cookies and disconnect and reconnect to the internet to get a new IP address every time I go onto a new group of sites. Google can track users by IP address as well and think about all the different tracking vectors they have: search engine, Adsense, Google Analytics, Google content delivery network for everyone using Google for jQuery or any other Google hosted library. Take Sitepoint for instance, they are using fonts and ajax from googleapis.com. You visit Sitepoint, clear your cookies, then visit another site running Adsense or Analytics. They have your IP. Then tie it all together with Gmail or Google Plus and Google may not only have your traffic patterns but your real name as well.

I don’t agree with this.
The German terrorists (see article above) were intent on committing an act of terrorism, however they were caught before they could do so.

I did, sorry for the typo.

cheesedude, that’s a good point. Where do we draw the line?