Pretty good hellraisin’

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Philip Zimmermann, our February 1994 Hellraiser, is rushing to finish what he tentatively calls Voice PGP, named after his uncrackable computer encryption program, Pretty Good Privacy. His new creation turns a personal computer into a secure telephone–much to the consternation of the feds.

Voice PGP uses a computer and high-speed modem to compress and encrypt the caller’s voice before transmitting it onto ordinary phone lines. Only the called party can decode what the user is saying, in real time. Why Zimmermann’s hurry? “We have a window of opportunity to fill this technology niche before the government acts,” he says. Otherwise, once U.S. intelligence gets its hands on telephone surveillance technology, “it will be like putting a sticker on every phone that says, ‘J. Edgar Hoover inside.'”

Zimmermann and other cypherpunks are already disturbed by the government’s decision to install the Clipper chip (an encryption device whose passwords are known to both the user and the feds) in computer communications software. His aim is to get Voice PGP out there (for free, like PGP) and widely in use by the end of the year.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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