Private Conversation

Private Conversation --- Encrypted --- JoshuaKerievsky 09 Jan 2002

. . . How could someone feel comfortable sending someone else an electronic message when that message contained sensitive information or data?

			      * * *

Everyday email and chat programs fail to provide us with an easy way to conduct a private conversation. The encryption software is available, but it isn't integrated with our software and it isn't easy to find and integrate it with our software.

Yeow in China was going to take a class offered by Joe in San Francisco. Yeow needed to pay for the class and Joe's web site didn't support secure payments. Yeow didn't want to make an expensive phone call to Joe just to give his credit card number (CheaperToUse), and yet he also didn't want to send his credit card information via a plain-text message, since such a message could be intercepted by some shady character. So what did Yeow do? He sent an email with the first half of his credit card number on Monday, and another email with the 2nd half on Wednesday, figuring that it would be unlikely for a hacker to put two email messages together to obtain his credit card number. Yeow's technique worked, but it is a poor work-around for software that doesn't meet our needs.

It is a fact of life that we sometimes need to speak privately with others. Our electronic communication software must respond to this need.

But what about those who are bent on evil? Should our communication software enable evildoers to speak privately with each other? Some would answer that question with another question, for example: "Does a government have a right to protect its citizens?" Quickly, this question can dissolve into a heated debate about rights and freedoms, national and international. We won't go there.

Instead, we'll ask this: what kind of privacy does a common user need? A common user needs to occasionally send private messages that aren't impenetrable to spying eyes, but which are difficult enough to crack that most folks wouldn't bother.


Make it easy to send and receive private messages by fully integrating sophisticated, but crackable, encryption software into our communication software. Make this universally available, in email, chat, etc. Automatically upgrade the encryption software if it ever becomes too easy for common hackers to crack.

			      * * *

When we can comfortably conduct a PrivateConversation electronically, we will have fewer reasons to call people when we simply want to tell them something most important or transmit some sensitive data---CheaperToUse.

AnnotatedMessages could be used to specify that a message is encrypted or to actually encrypt the message. Meanwhile, both client and server software will need to know how to decrypt our private messages.


Last edited December 24, 2002
Return to WelcomeVisitors