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PGP creator sees threat in Moore's law

Phil Zimmermann, who created the Pretty Good Privacy encryption product, said he believes that Moore's law and surveillance cameras make for a particularly dangerous mix.

LONDON--Moore's law is the biggest threat to privacy today, asserts Phil Zimmermann, who in the early 1990s developed Pretty Good Privacy to bring encryption to the masses.

Zimmermann, who was here for the Infosecurity conference, told ZDNet UK that Moore's law represents a "blind force" that is fueling an undirected technology escalation. Moore's law, developed by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, states that the number of transistors on a chip will double about every 18 months.

"The human population does not double every 18 months, but its ability to use computers to keep track of us does," Zimmerman said, referring to what he sees as the threat to privacy from the increased use of high-tech surveillance cameras. "You can't encrypt your face."

Zimmermann wrote PGP in the early 1990s as a response to what many civil rights activists in the United States saw as increased interest by the government in gaining access to e-mail. PGP was the first widely adopted encryption program for protecting files and e-mail.

Today, Zimmermann sees surveillance as the biggest threat to civil liberties.

Although laws are passed during times of a perceived increase in threats to national security, they can be relatively easily repealed, said Zimmermann. But "the technology market doesn't work that way," he said. "It has more inertia, and is more insidious. When you put computer technology behind surveillance apparatus, the problem gets worse."

This is where Moore's law comes in, said Zimmermann, who stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity not connected with his association with PGP Corp., the company that now owns the rights to the PGP product.