Through the Past, Privately: PGP Turns 30

Today, we’re surrounded by strong encryption. Thanks to efforts like Let’s Encrypt, almost all web communications today at encrypted. And thanks to wonderful privacy communications tools like Signal, we can share private thoughts instantly and securely with anyone on the planet. But this was not always the case. This secure, private, encryption-enabled future we’re living now was far from certain 30 years ago when Phil Zimmermann created and freely released his email encryption tool Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). If not for Phil and a handful of others, we could very easily have lost the Crypto Wars of the 1990’s and authoritarian mass surveillance could have been the norm.

In today’s show, Phil and I walk through the creation of PGP, the technological and political climate of that day, and the nerve-racking few years where Phil faced potential jail time for releasing “munitions grade” encryption to the world. We’ll also discuss the literally life-saving impacts PGP has had over these last 30 years and how global law enforcement agencies and liberal democratic governments have revived the Crypto Wars.

Phil Zimmermann is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy, which is still widely regarded as the gold standard for secure email communication. Phil went on to form Silent Circle and win several prestigious awards including US Privacy Champion and was inducted into the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame.

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