Tech by VICE

This Video Perfectly Explains The Encryption Debate

Let stick figures tell you why you should care about encryption.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Apr 14 2016, 3:02pm

Image: keantian/Shutterstock

For almost two years, the FBI has been trying to tell us that phones and computers that use hard-to-break encryption would doom us all to a future of unsolvable crimes and uncatchable criminals.

Earlier this year, when the FBI couldn't get into the phone of a dead terrorist, the encryption debate, which has actually been going on and off for more than 20 years, finally had its moment in the sun. The debate is extremely complex, but the position of the FBI can be boiled down to a simple concept: There shouldn't be unbreakable locks, because nobody is above the law. (By the way, that's actually pretty much what a much-anticipated—and then much-ridiculedSenate bill says.)

But is that really true? And why should you, common law-abiding citizen care? John Oliver already did a pretty good job at answering that question, but a new animated video from CGP Grey might be the best simple explainer we've seen to date.

"The nature of the keyhole is to be cracked and the nature of the internet is to bring demons to the door," CGP Grey says in the video. "No matter how much we might wish it there's no way to build a digital lock that only angels can open and demons cannot. Anyone saying otherwise is either ignorant of the mathematics, or less of an angel than they appear."

Using stick figures, and angels and demons, CGP Grey does a great job at laying out just why forcing tech companies and developers to make their encryption intentionally weaker so that cops can break it if they need to is dangerous for all of us—and way more dangerous than having a physical breakable lock.