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Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government -- Saving Privacy in the Digital Age

Author: Steven Levy
Publisher: New York: Viking Press, 2001
Review Published: February 2002

 REVIEW 1: Iain Lang
 REVIEW 2: Lokman Tsui
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Steven Levy

I enjoyed reading both reviews, taking particular pleasure in how both reviewers used the story I told in Crypto as a platform to make broader observations on politics and culture. My approach as an author is to identify resonant subjects and explore them by narrative. Though I reserve the right to portray the struggles of my real-life characters with some enthusiasm, I try to give the reader the motivations of the key parties: even though is correct in identifying my fondness for Cypherpunks, I also take pains to see the dilemma of public cryptography through the eyes of NSA official Clinton Brooks, the architect of the Clipper Chip scheme. Instead of instructing the reader what to think, I hope that my tale will provide the information to lead people to make more complicated judgements about the subject -- even if the conclusions are not the same I hold personally.

Ian Lang's comments illustrate my point. Though the book's title frames the Crypto Wars as somewhat of a David and Goliath story, the saga -- as most are -- is actually a complex interplay between various forces and philosophies, and I was happy to provide him the context to examine how those forces work.

Lokman Tsu points out correctly that even after the "endgame" in the Crypto wars, most people do not encrypt their e-mail. But despite the problems of some companies like Zero Knowledge, I see cryptographic technologies still at the beginning of a growth period that will see crypto become a bigger part of ordinary citizens' lives. Even in the aftermath of September 11, there has been very little demand to roll back the relaxation of anti-crypto regulations made in the late 1990s; instead we will see public-key technology used increasingly for authentication. Tsu's larger point, though, is well-taken: the uses of cryptography are still evolving.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Steven Levy
01.31.02

Steven Levy


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