Soon it may not be.
A good way to explore this question is for you and I to first discern the difference between the legality of something and the ethics of it (or what is inherently “right”).
For example, it may be perfectly legal in your State to “stand your ground” during an attack, otherwise you may have a “duty to retreat.” (These are not to be confused with “castle doctrine” laws, which apply to your home.)
In Texas, you can stand and fight and even use deadly force to protect yourself, your family and your property. This even extends to your automobile, place of work and anywhere else a person “has a right to be present.”
These are legal issues, not ethical ones. It’s unethical for the law to demand you acquiesce to an aggressor unless you’re in your home or your car. Defending yourself in Texas is legal. Out in the open in Rhode Island it’s questionable. For those who slavishly follow the law, this may be a hot button. Let’s examine a few more.
Consider the ethics of protecting the defenseless, such as unborn children.
The issue is neither “pro-life” nor “pro-choice”—it’s about due process. Under The Constitution, even vile citizens—rapists, murderers and those who prey on children and the elderly—are granted due process of law (trial by jury, appeals, etc.) In contrast, the most innocent of us (babies in the womb) may have their lives taken on another’s whim without so much as a court hearing. There’s legal and then there’s ethical. While it’s legal to terminate an unborn person’s life, the ethical thing to do would be to protect the defenseless. It’s “right” even when the law says it’s wrong.
What about self-protection and gun control?
When we criminalize gun ownership we can be sure at the end of the day that criminals will possess much more guns than law-abiding citizens. The law will never deter lawbreakers, but it can make easy victims of those who confuse legality for ethics. The weapon of the law can deprive people of their weapons and their rights—things they never should have surrendered in the first place.
Then there’s privacy. Nothing protects online digital privacy like encryption.
When we make it illegal, only criminals will have it, use it and benefit from it. By definition, they’ll be the only ones enjoying privacy. And the issue isn’t about being able to hide things. It’s about not having to show things.
“ You invade my privacy, it’s nothing. I try to get it back, it’s a crime. It’s not that I have something to hide. I have nothing I want you to see. ”
— The Girl (Amanda Seyfried) in Anon (2018)
Legislation cannot secure privacy—that can only be guaranteed by encryption. While it may be legal to design and use encryption for the moment, there are plenty of rumblings to make it illegal. Or at least to make it so weak it’s not worth using.
So, is it legal to use PrismCipher? This is the wrong question. (When you ask the wrong question you can’t help but get the wrong answer, even if it’s correct.) Better to ask: is it ethical to use PrismCipher? Is it right to assert your right to free speech and privacy, using encryption to do so?
Governments may outlaw encryption, but they can only change the legality of using it—not the ethics of it.