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Jimmy Wales Slams UK’s “Moronic” Encryption Ban Plans

It is not feasible in any sense of the word for the UK to ban end-to-end encryption. Not only is it not feasible, it’s a completely moronic stupid thing to do.”

Never one to mince his words, outspoken Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales last week opened up on UK Prime Minister David Cameron with both barrels. In his keynote speech for the IPEXPO enterprise IP conference in London, Wales launched a direct attack on Cameron’s plans to ban encryption,

“It’s too late, David. This is not going to happen. The genie is out of the bottle; the math works.”

Wales’ talk specifically focused on Secure Socket Layer (SSL), the cryptographic protocol used to secure HTTPS websites (https://). When SSL is implemented, visitors to that website connect using an encrypted connection, which means that all activity on that website is securely hidden from an outside observer (although they can see that you are visiting that website.)

Until fairly recently, only a relatively few websites bothered to implement SSL (with notable exceptions being services such as banks and payment processors), but as Wales observes, thanks to the actions of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, there has been a sharp increase in the number of websites now using it,

As a direct result of the Snowden revelations consumers have become aware of cyber security issues. People in general have a better understanding that we need a safe and secure internet.

According to the latest Sandvine report (signup required), as of April 2015, 29.1 percent of all websites are encrypted, which is predicted to rise to 65-70 percent by the end of 2016, a trend that Wales predicts will continue,

My expectation is that this is going to narrow; over the next couple of years, [unencrypted traffic] is going to end up being a five or six percent slice. All major traffic is going to be encrypted very very soon.

Dismissing Cameron (and others’) claims that encryption is used by terrorists to make the world a less safe place, Wales argued forcefully that encryption is essential for everyone’s security,

All major traffic is going to be encrypted very soon and that’s a very good thing when you think of all of the issues around stolen credit card numbers and people sniffing networks, stolen passwords and identity theft… Cyber security is on the rise and that is an incredibly good thing. We should keep up pressure as consumers on all internet companies to keep our data safe and keep our communications secure… It is a fundamental public good and is something that every government should be diligently working on.

Wales later admitted that Wikipedia itself should have been quicker to implement SSL (which was only made the default connection in June this year,)

We knew for many years that Wikipedia was easy to spy on and we were too complacent.

This move came shortly after the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, launched a court action March, suing the NSA over a slide obtained via Snowden showing how the NSA spied on Wikipedia users.

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When Wikipedia implemented SSL (HTTPS) by default, the Chinese language version website was immediately blocked in China (and remains blocked.) Wales conceded that relations with China have been difficult, but reaffirmed his complete commitment to fighting for a free internet for all,

One of the biggest problems is direct censorship. We made it a principle that we will never cooperate with censorship of Wikipedia. We argue that access to knowledge is a fundamental human right and that it would be inappropriate for us, given our mission to give free knowledge to all, to ever participate in government censorship.


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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