Abbie Manse

Encryption, the encoding of data, is used to protect the privacy of information. Encryption is “a mapping of plaintext to ciphertext based on some chosen key text. It is performed by a stepwise application of a (more or less formalized) encryption algorithm” (Bauer, 2011, p. 416). Encryption works by scrambling text in a certain way so that only the recipient with the correct code can decipher the message. It is another step to try and conceal data from companies, individuals, or the government. Encryption is more simply defined as “the process of encoding data in such a way to render unusable to anyone except those in possession of the knowledge required to decrypt that data again” (Aitchison & Mechanic, 2009, p. 122). These definitions clarify the use and practicality of encryption.

With the use of encryption, online users can feel like they can protect personal information. Encryption allows people to take “some intriguing techno-precautions to manage their lives online… [such as encrypting] your emails and [forcing] recipients to use cryptographic keys to read them” (Gilliom & Monahan, 2013, p.70). Encryption allows people to have more control over what information is being sold and shared. Skype’s recent software update is an example of a company implementing encryption. Newman (2018) explains that “Skype will… implement the encryption, which is set up so that only the devices sending and receiving communications in a conversation can hear or view them” (p. 1). Users will be able to chat without the fear of their that someone is recording their data. By scrambling consumers’ conversations, encryption takes their privacy one step further and Skype is announcing to the world that they value their customers’ privacy.


Aitchison, A., & Machanic, A. (2009). Encryption. In Jonathan Gennick (Ed.), Expert SQL server 2008 development (pp. 121-158). New York, NY: Apress.

Bauer, F. L. (2011). Encryption. In van Tilborg, H. & S. Jajodia (Eds.), Encyclopedia of cryptography and security (pp. 416-417). Boston, MA: Springer.

Gilliom, J., & Monahan, T. (2013). SuperVision: An introduction to the surveillance society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Newman, L.H. (2018, January 11) Skype finally starts rolling out end to end encryption. Wired. Retrieved from: https://www.wired.com/story/skype-end-to-end-encryption-voice-text/.


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Key Concepts in Surveillance Studies Copyright © 2019 by Abbie Manse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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