No Surveillance State Month, Part 8: Encrypted Text Messages

Professional Troublemaker

Locked PhoneText messages are an awesome way of communicating with friends and family. They’re short, to the point, and you don’t end up stuck on the line for 30 minutes hearing about someone’s bad break-up.

But, they’re prime targets for government interception. First, they’re small, so they’re easy to store en masse. While a minute of phone conversation might take up a few hundred thousand kilobytes, a text message with metadata would take up around 0.2 kilobytes. Second, text messages are easily searchable. While computers have difficulty turning voice into searchable text, text messages are already text, making it easy for the government to search for anything from “Allahu Ackbar” to “I think that the Patriot Act is un-American.” And, like phone calls, text messages are great ways to build databases of who your “associates” (read: friends and family) are, as well as your location information calculated by the cell…

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