Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Author: mukhinme

Strict or Loose Construction?

Marcus argues during class with both Charles and Mrs. Anderson about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Though both sides in the book are represented by extreme views for the sensationalism of attempting to tell a good story, the actual debate is a valid case of differing opinions. The question of when to suspend the Bill of Rights remains contentious, however the government has made rulings in the past relating to the matter. Marcus states that the Bill of Rights is absolute, and should never be suspended. While this is a valid opinion, it does not reflect the views of the nation in “Little Brother”, nor does it reflect the views of our nation. The Supreme court has ruled that shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater, or hate speech, for example, are not protected under the first amendment, freedom of speech and expression. Though I would say that these examples are not necessarily suspending the Bill, the federal governments’ Patriot Act represents a suspension of the Bill in certain cases. The government is given wide latitude to seek out and prosecute terrorism based on a much lesser standard of truth than a court of law. Additionally, an important part of the debate is the right to privacy versus surveillance. Whether the right to privacy exists in the Bill of Rights is not debatable, there is no stated rule that creates it. The only arguments come from the 14th amendment, where Roe v. Wade was ruled based on the implied right to privacy. As part of the debate, Mrs. Anderson brings up how the constitution was made to change and adapt to the times, and that the founding fathers did not mean for it to remain immutable for years. Marcus argues the opposite, what is known as strict constructionism. Though I do not agree with how Mrs. Anderson wants to change the constitution, I would agree that it should not be interpreted literally, and that it should evolve with society. The very idea that the constitution has a built in amendments process shows that the founding fathers did not believe that they were the final say on the way this nation should be run.

Maximizing Both Security and Privacy

Morris argues that universities should mine student’s data to identify and prevent potentially threatening behaviors which could cause harm to other students of faculty. He compares data mining with a crystal ball, that universities could use to ensure the safety of those on campus. Additionally he brings up a potential objection, that FERPA could prevent this type of mining because of privacy rights and the inability to release confidential student records. To counter this he presents a case from Virginia Tech which added a clause that would make this prevention possible. Morris also brings up the data mining that cookies do for online sellers to better tailor advertising. I agree with the sentiment that Morris presents. Oftentimes we must sacrifice privacy in order to help with health and security. However, I think that his analogy of a crystal ball is a line coming from far fetched sensationalism. It isn’t the data mining itself, it’s the algorithm which interprets data and predicts future developments or makes conclusions that poses as the crystal ball. There also remains the question of how powerful these algorithms are. Predicting human behavior is difficult, and should an algorithm be wrong, a student’s life could be ruined, even though they were simply researching for their criminal psychology class. Additionally, in order to strengthen Morris’s argument I would like to bring up the impersonal aspect of this technology. Since all of these algorithms are being fed through machines, the data could be encrypted and also given to machines, so that actual humans would never see it or interpret it. That way, only machines would be running the algorithms and the only data examined would be that which poses a risk. This would help maintain privacy while increasing campus security.

The Cryptographic Needs of the Common Man

It is said that history is written by the winners, but many forget the second part of of that statement, that history is also written about only the powerful and important. The examples of cryptography that survived throughout the ages were those that caused great uproar, such as the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots.

Besides, the common man did not have much need for cryptography before the invention of modern technology. Unless communicating about a potential insurgency plot, most people did not need any form of secret keeping. It was often unnecessary to require a secret address to the nearby woods where their secret stash of gold was buried.

The primary difference between the times then and now, is the amount of information on a person that could be used with malicious intent. Compared to the 16th century, where a person's identity was comprised of a family name, some heirlooms and the land upon which they lived, today every person is a collection of numbers and electronic impulses. Whether it is Social Security, bank account numbers, credit card numbers or even account passwords, today there is every possibility for the threat of theft.

As society continued to advance away from the tyrannical rule of the monarchies that was so well documented in chapter 1, people began to look towards their right to privacy. In the 16th century the only reason to conceal common correspondence was usually an indication that there was something to be concealed in the message. Today however, people use encrypted communication for every day conversations, to ensure their privacy, no matter the message. Electronic communication means that almost any message could be at least intercept, an impossible task with physical messages. The importance of encryption for the common man has grown tenfold.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén