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Privacy on the Line: Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption [Paperback]

Whitfield Diffie
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Mar 1999
Telecommunication has never been perfectly secure, as a Cold War culture of wiretaps and international spying taught us. Yet many still take their privacy for granted, even as we become more reliant on telephones, computer networks and electronic transactions of all kinds. Many of our relationships now use telecommunication as the primary mode of communication that the security of these transactions has become a source of wide public concern and debate. The authors argue that if we are to retain the privacy that characterized face-to-face relationships in the past, we must build the means of protecting that privacy into our communications systems. However, the development of such protection is not easy. The US government uses strong export control to limit the availability of cryptography within the United States and bills introduced in 1997 place legal restrictions on the essential elements of any secure communications system. These policies attempt to limit encryption to forms that provide a "backdoor" for government wiretapping. This book aims to strip away the hype surrounding the policy debate to examine the national security, law enforcement, commercial and civil liberties issues. It discusses the social function of privacy, how it underlies a democratic society and what happens when it is lost. The book also explores the workings of intelligence and law enforcement organizations, how they intercept communications and how they use what they intercept.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New edition edition (31 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262541009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262541008
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,873,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

""Privacy on the Line". . . should be required reading for any computing student at any level."-- Harold Thimbleby, "New Scientist"

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In the early nineteenth century it took six weeks for the British government to send a message from London to its representative in Delhi. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is the most clearly written book on the sources of the problems facing our right to privacy that I have seen yet. Well documented, well written and shows just what the Federal Government is doing to eliminate our ability to have private communication. I suggest that this book should be considered urgent reading. It could be the one that wakes everybody up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A good book answering my questions about encription and if it's safe to send your credit card over the internet, but now all of them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent viewpoint into personal privacy isssues in contemporary society. I recommend it to people interested in understanding the current issues associated with govt legislation of cryptography and personal privacy. The book is written from a viewpoint critical of the US govt position and it serves as an excellent balance to law enforcement writings on government requirements for key escrow systems.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book 30 Oct 2000
By Ben Rothke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
During the civil war in Beirut some years ago, Life magazine ran a photo essay of people lounging around a hotel pool, ostensibly oblivious to the hostilities around them. In a similar sense, many people are unaware of a skirmish currently being fought on the digital battlefield: the war for protection of personal privacy.
The authors of this book assert that privacy is one of the underpinnings of a democratic society, and that if the democratic society in the United States is to survive, Americans must maintain privacy in communications. In addition, the means of protecting that privacy must be built into all current and future communication systems.
In recent years, the convergence of the Internet, telecommunications, and other technologies has elevated personal privacy to new levels of importance. It is now possible to effortlessly track a person's every movement, from the path of the morning commute to the choice of sandwich at lunch. Every keystroke and e-mail transmission can likewise be monitored.
Authors Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau assert that in the "old days," when communications largely occurred face to face, privacy was simply a matter of stepping aside from those who butted in. With voice communications traveling over cellular networks, through the Internet, and via other pathways prone to compromise, the best method of securing such communications is with strong encryption.
The authors argue their case effectively and engagingly, and are uniquely qualified to do so, especially in the case of Diffie. He is one of the seminal computer scientists of the last 30 years, and hardly a household doesn't benefit from security technology he helped develop. While he has written scholarly tomes and dissertations on encryption, Diffie does an excellent job here of explaining in plain English how such technologies operate and why they are crucial to a free society.
The book details numerous privacy issues, from personal privacy to national security. It starts with a brief overview of cryptography, just enough to educate the reader without boring the nonmathematician. The rest of the book explores issues related to today's communications systems, such as wiretapping. A welcome surprise is that the book often reads like a Tom Clancy novel, interwoven as it is with episodes of domestic and international intrigue.
Privacy on the Line is a timely and important book, relevant to every citizen, wired or not. Security professionals will find this work well worth their time.
This review of mine originally appeared at [...]
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom is Privacy-based 6 Jan 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For those out of the crypto loop, the lead author, Whitfield Diffie was co-developer of public key encryption technology at Stanford several decades ago and stands as one of the most knowledgeable figures in the field of cryptography. Though the public policy aspects of cryptography are an important part of what this book is about, it is really a book with much broader implications, especially with the passage of the Patriot Act which strips U.S. citizens of any meaningful court oversight in the search and surveillance arenas. Now that the justice department has unleashed the Magic Lantern trojan horse on the public, the warnings found in this book pale by comparison since it was written before 9/11 events. The author delineates the many rationale for why respect for privacy is a good idea and how arguments to the contrary are basically flawed. Those in law enforcement and national security roles cyclically lobby for totalitarian capabilities, get them, become insatiable with MKULTRA type scenarios, get discovered, get their hands slapped and start over again when the headlines subside. Meanwhile taxpayers take a beating in lost jobs, ruined reputations, unwarranted jail time, suicides and the like. Since it is obvious that lawmakers have been delinquent in learning these lessons, what will happen when someone detonates a nuclear device in a large city and the justice department introduces legislation for mandatory implants? How will you be able to turn back after that? Tick, tick, tick...
Read Diffie, think hard about lessons unlearned and what you can do about it. Ask your lawmakers to MAKE NEW MISTAKES.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book written on the future of our privacy 13 Jan 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the most clearly written book on the sources of the problems facing our right to privacy that I have seen yet. Well documented, well written and shows just what the Federal Government is doing to eliminate our ability to have private communication. I suggest that this book should be considered urgent reading. It could be the one that wakes everybody up.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading; critical towards US govt perspectives 30 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent viewpoint into personal privacy isssues in contemporary society. I recommend it to people interested in understanding the current issues associated with govt legislation of cryptography and personal privacy. The book is written from a viewpoint critical of the US govt position and it serves as an excellent balance to law enforcement writings on government requirements for key escrow systems.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice book finnaly answering most of my questiouns. 20 Sep 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A good book answering my questions about encription and if it's safe to send your credit card over the internet, but now all of them.
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