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.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

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