When crypto meant cryptography

by Maria on May 11, 2023

I recently caught up with an activist friend I’ve known for twenty-five years. We got into this stuff at the tail end of what were then called the crypto wars, a set of legal and policy battles to free strong encryption from the US and UK’s security services and allow it to be used to secure the internet. (If our guys had lost, there would never have been any of what we used to call “e-commerce”, remember that?) We drank very good coffee and talked about the weirdness of aging into and then (for me) out of the management side of tech policy, and reminisced about people who’d been central both in fighting and passing the laws that created the UK’s unusually comprehensive surveillance system. We also shared ways to exercise with fewer joint injuries and laughed a lot about being grumpy old fucks. We made some pretty fine distinctions between being jaded – neither of us feels that – but markedly less excitable than people for whom the latest state efforts to cripple encryption are a novel outrage. We briefly tried to figure out if we were on the fifth or the sixth UK attempt to backdoor end-to-end encrypted messaging. Sitting down with an old friend who profoundly gets political storytelling, from being so many times around the same apple cart, and can mine hard-won self-knowledge seemingly without limit was a pleasure my twenty-five year old self wouldn’t have even known to anticipate. So when I sat down last week to re-read Cory Doctorow’s Red Team Blues, whose t-shirt slogan is ‘crypto means cryptography’ and is about a battle-hardened old fart, I was primed to enjoy it at least as much as my first go-round.

Henry wrote about Red Team Blues here a couple of weeks ago. We’d both been talking about it and emailing with Cory. I have a strong reader’s debt to this extremely fun and thought-provoking noir-ish crypto thriller. When my brain was completely scrambled, Red Team Blues basically taught me to read again for joy, no less.
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