Read Anna Weiner’s excellent profile of Moxie Marlinspike, the guy behind Signal.
Enforcing laws, Marlinspike believes, should be difficult. He likes to say that “we should all have something to hide,” a statement that he intends not as a blanket endorsement of criminal activity but as an acknowledgment that the legal system can be manipulated, and that even the most banal activities or text messages can be incriminating. In his view, frequent lawbreaking points to systemic rot. He often cites the legalization of same-sex marriage and, in some states, marijuana as evidence that people sometimes need to challenge laws or engage in nominally criminal activity for years before progress can be made. “Before, it was inconceivable,” he said. “After, it was inconceivable that it was ever inconceivable.” Privacy, he says, is a necessary condition for experimentation, and for social change. He compares the need for a secure digital space to the need for a private domestic one—where, for instance, a child might safely experiment with gender identity or expression. “If I’m dissatisfied with this world—and I think that I might be—a problem is that you can only desire based on what you know,” Marlinspike said. “You have certain experiences in this world, they produce certain desires, those desires reproduce the world. Our reality today just keeps reproducing itself. If you can create different experiences that manifest different desires, then it’s possible that those will lead to the production of different worlds.”