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     Encrypt – to alter information using a code or mathematical algorithm so as to be unintelligible to unauthorized readers.

When I think of the word “encrypt,” which has been in the news because of the dispute between Apple and the FBI, I think of information buried in a tomb or crypt.

In fact, it’s a good way to understand the word. Cryptic is from the Greek word kryptikos, meaning hidden or mysterious.

When words are changed into code, they have been encrypted and their meaning is obscured.

When a politician avoids answering a question directly, he often is being “cryptic,” that is, his meaning is hidden from view. He is trying to conceal something.

However, this controversy isn’t about encryption, it’s about national security versus privacy. We’ve seen this coming, and for some time. Privacy is becoming more and more elusive. Cell phones with cameras were one of the first game changers, but electronic transactions using the Internet ushered in a whole new era of opportunity for prying eyes.

And that’s just for openers.

Let’s not forget the eyes in the sky. It used to be satellites hundreds of miles high, whose job primarily was to spy on our enemies. Now they are spying on us, and not just with satellites, but with drones.

Is it time to be concerned, or should we wait until packages arrive on our doorstep by drones sent by private companies?

We prize our privacy in this country, but little of it is left. Maybe that’s why Apple has thrown up so much resistance to the FBI request to break the code of the terrorist’s cell phone. On the other hand, any information should be available to prosecutors if they have probable cause, and if the killing at San Bernardino isn’t probable cause, what is?

Those siding with Apple argue that a dangerous “precedent” would be set if Apple is compelled to break the encryption. I’m not sure why. Slippery slopes occur only if the slope remains in place. If Apple scientists successfully mine the information, turn it over to the FBI, and then deep 6 the scientific procedure, is that different from turning over other records legally required by law enforcement?

Americans cherish privacy – unless you include many celebrities living in Hollywood. They love exposure. But most of the rest of us shun the probing eyes of government and seedy private business.

Privacy? Yes. But not for terrorists.

March 9, 2016