Interview: Jacob Ginsberg, senior director, Echoworx

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End-to-end encryption has surfaced from behind the scenes to go mainstream, with Whatsapp and Viber both adding it to their users’ communications in the last few months.

As the technology has grown to become far more commercialized, privacy disputes between governments and technology companies have also become more evident. Authorities have looked to weaken secure communication in the interest of national security whilst tech organizations have stood firm in their refusal to such a precedent.

I recently sat down with Jacob Ginsberg, senior director at encryption specialist Echoworx to discuss the security benefits off end-to-end encryption and what he thinks the future holds for the technology.

Ginsberg explained that Echworx strives to demystify communication encryption and highlight the fact that, in reality, end-to-end encryption doesn’t need to be a “big and scary” topic.

“One of the big changes we’ve tried to introduce is making it less about propriety technology, and pushing that down people’s throats, and instead more about removing the obstacles between communities. That’s our focus,” he said.

“What we really want to do is put encryption into people’s hands, and sooner rather than later. What we’re seeing are two things: the first is realization that data persists; that if I have an email sitting somewhere, you can try to delete it, but data points are being collected and will persist for some time. The second is that the threshold for what is considered sensitive information is really going down.”

The use of end-to-end encryption in communications is a security game changer and something that should be implemented on a wider scale, Ginsberg argued.

“It changes the game in terms of whether you or not you’re shouting out your banking information on the street corner [for example] or discreetly passing it on to the person that you mean to. It makes a big, big, big difference and I don’t think people appreciate how big a difference it is and really understand what you are doing when you communicate online without it. It’s absolutely night and day, and we want people to realize that and we want people to embrace it, not just as a company but as good members of the technological community.”

Moving the conversation onto public attitudes towards encrypted communication, Ginsberg said there has been a notable increase in both awareness and understanding lately.

“A lot of this has to do with the media and raising awareness with high-profile cases that we’ve seen. Also, we are now applauding companies like Facebook for implementing it and talking about it. It seems like everyone across the board is interested in raising awareness and utilization, recognizing that it’s good for everyone,” he added.

Asked what direction he thinks arguments surrounding the much-discussed topic of government access to private, encrypted communication – brought to the fore so publically in the FBI vs Apple San Bernardino gunmen standoff earlier this year – will take going forward, Ginsberg said:

“I see it continuing to a certain extent; and that’s only because if you contextualize it and remove the technology and internet from it, this has been a constant theme between public sector and governments for a long time.

“It’s very interesting that countries are very much concerned with securing their own information and their own borders, but at the same time consider having access to their citizens’ information acceptable.”

To conclude, Ginsberg said he sees the widespread use of end-to-end encryption in communications becoming the norm, arguing it is already happening as fast as some governments will allow it.

“Companies are implementing it where there’s not even an immediate financial return because everyone realizes how important this is,” he added. 

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