Freedom of Assembly and Encrypted Communications

"Freedom of Assembly" is a right granted in political documents around the world, including the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The freedom to assemble is guaranteed because of its importance as a means of political action and coordination, independent of government knowledge and permission. The benefits and political ends of freedom of assembly are today enhanced by the ability to encrypt communications between individuals and groups, masking their contents from interceptions by government.

US Constitution, Amendment 1, Abridged:

Congress shall make no law... abridging... the right of the people peaceably to assemble.

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20, Clause 1:

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

What is the purpose of guaranteeing the right of people to congregate and associate with one another? It isn't for game night or rock concerts. People are allowed to come together to discuss the state of their government and to coordinate political persuade lawmakers to enact the peoples' will.

In the 18th century, when this right was guaranteed in the United States, there was no method of real-time communication other than speech. The freedom to gather in one physical space, then, is a manifestation of the freedom to communicate in a group setting. Further, since this freedom is not just to protest, but to gather privately in any establishment, it is obvious that private communication is implied in this right.

We can now communicate with voice, video and type over countless services. From the Internet, to decentralized mesh networks and amateur radio, there are few bounds to the capacity to reach others and discuss the world. This new world of communication is the new assembly: Engaging with others and organizing politically online to enact change and defend rights.

If the First Amendment defends the right to organize politically, without government interference, shouldn't the ability to communicate freely and securely be protected by the the same law?

People should be able to send and receive messages from anyone without middlemen and interference. There is no secure way for the government to insert itself into a conversation without compromising the security of the message entirely. Meaning, if the FBI tells Apple to let authorities have access to private iMessages or emails, then most dedicated attackers will also have access to your messages. There is no such thing as a secure backdoor.

Australia is trying to make backdoors a thing. Here is a gathering of links on the subject, though if you are fascinated by the subject and wish to see a more academic analysis, this paper criticizing backdoors is co-authored by some of the most prominent cryptographers in the world. Yeah, that's an appeal to authority. Fight me.

This discussion intersects technology and politics. We have a technical dichotomy: Respect for the right to have discussions in private over the Web, or not. Allow encryption, or ban it. I assert that not only is a ban on secure communication infeasible, but it is unconstitutional. With a government able to read all private communications of political groups - their plans, methods, and ideologies - that group and its members can be easily targeted by the government, and legitimate political activity can be disrupted.

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