Tag Archives: SSL

The User Experience of Digital Signatures

How about that for a boring title? But it’s something that bothers me quite regularly. Why is it that “asymmetric encryption” appears to be fundamentally beyond the understanding of anyone who doesn’t work directly with computers?

It’s now become such an issue for me that I’ve written to my MP about it.

But before you write me off as some parliamentary postbag loony, consider what’s pushed me over the edge on this issue: the UK government’s Communications Data Bill.

Until now, the question of why so few people seem neither to know nor care about digital certificates in their use of the Internet has appeared to me as basically frustrating, but not worth getting too upset about. Ever since I first saw the famous New Yorker cartoon about identity on the net, I have wondered why it is that people appear to think that being confident in the identity of anyone on line is like being confident in the existence of pixies at the bottom of the garden. Pixies probably don’t exist, but confidence in who you are communicating with in the digital world most definitely does. In fact, if you take in network effects and chains of trust, verifying identity can be more reliable (and certainly thousands of times easier) than in the physical world.

Now it strikes me that if such things were more widely understood, then the government would not have made such a colossal screw-up of the drafting of the Communications Data Bill. Here’s my letter to my MP on the subject:

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