The War on Encryption

Last week, I described how Russia’s attempt to ban Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, had devolved into a game of whack-a-mole, one that had little effect on the app itself but knocked many other Russian websites offline. Apparently undaunted by Russia’s failure (and the Moscow protests that followed), Iran has launched its own ban on the secure messenger, which it has accused of fomenting armed uprising and social unrest.


Telegram is even more popular in Iran than in Russia. Although it’s too early to be sure, media reports suggest a similar farce may already be playing out there.

In Iran’s case, the brouhaha reflects the ongoing political tussle between reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani and more hardline voices within the Islamic Republic. Rouhani says that apps like Telegram create economic opportunities for Iranians, while hardliners see the firm’s growing ambitions — not just in secure messaging, but in news, anonymous web browsing, and online payments — as a threat. For now, hardliners may be winning the argument, not that it appears to be doing them much good.

There’s a broader power struggle going on here, between governments and technologies that undermine their authority. Russia and Iran aren’t the only countries that fear encrypted apps. A group of US senators has reportedly been laying the groundwork for a new bill that would give law enforcement access to encrypted communications, to prevent criminals and terrorists from “going dark” — something that the UK, Germany, and France have also advocated.

The big picture: Forced to make a tradeoff between individual privacy and collective security, many governments will feel political pressure to choose the latter. That’s an issue not just for Russia and Iran, but for democracies, too.

Technology is changing the way modern geologists locate precious resources and harness energy. With supercomputers capable of processing geophysical data from all over the world, geologists are reconstructing models of the subsoil to identify hydrocarbon deposits. The efficiency of these powerful data processors can scan massive rock formations to help laboratories analyze geological systems. While today's modern geologists still have a compass and hammer to collect samples, petaflops of computing power are changing energy research at lightning speed.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Are e-Cigs an example of tech gone wrong?


There's a real tradeoff in e-cigarettes. To the extent that people stop smoking regular cigarettes to use e-cigarettes, that's good. To the extent that new people who wouldn't have been smokers, particularly young people, start smoking, that's bad. Now there are real societal problems and health problems and the data show that there are lots of new people starting to smoke. I don't think of it as much as a tech problem though or tech gone wrong as much as a social problem.


Moviepass has shut down. Final thoughts?


Moviepass was this insane business. You pay them ten dollars a month and then they let you see all the 2D movies you want. That was one business plan. They had about 20 business plans. It's kind of just, there lots of tech companies where the business model is: pay us a dollar and we'll pay you two dollars. And then they say to the venture capitalists: "Look we're growing. Give us more money." Of course that's going to run out.


Nostalgia. What's the next old tech about to make a resurgence?


Snapchat. A year ago, it looked like they were poached. That Instagram was just going to knock them out. And now, everybody's using Snapchat again.

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