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Phil Zimmermann fought a multi-year court battle and risked years in jail in order to defend your right to privacy. Phil created an email encryption system called Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) in 1991 that is still the gold standard for private email today. I sat down with Phil to discuss his legacy and why we are truly in the Golden Age of Surveillance, despite claims by law enforcement that all communications are “going dark”.
Philip R. Zimmermann is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy, an email encryption software package. Originally designed as a human rights tool, PGP was published for free on the Internet in 1991. This made Zimmermann the target of a three-year criminal investigation, because the government held that US export restrictions for cryptographic software were violated when PGP spread worldwide. Despite the lack of funding, the lack of any paid staff, the lack of a company to stand behind it, and despite government persecution, PGP nonetheless became the most widely used email encryption software in the world. After the government dropped its case in early 1996, Zimmermann founded PGP Inc. That company was acquired by Network Associates Inc (NAI) in 1997. In 2002 PGP was acquired from NAI by a new company called PGP Corporation, where Zimmermann served as special advisor and consultant until its acquisition by Symantec in 2010. Since 2004, his focus has been on secure telephony for the Internet, developing the ZRTP protocol and creating products that use it, including Silent Phone and Zfone. Zimmermann is Co-founder of Silent Circle, a provider of secure communications services.
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