Tech is increasingly a huge part of everyones lives. Twenty years ago, a PC was an expensive investment for a family, it’s abilities were limited, and the internet wasn’t widespread or affordable enough to really be a threat. One generation on, and most people in the developed world are online all day with multiple devices, connecting to and feeding data into a myriad of corporations our governments routinely go on fishing expeditions to.
The business model where the user IS the product is also a product of now. It’s inevitable that governments want to use the same tools and ideas to get a fine tuned control over their populations.
Now is the time to start fighting back against this practice, as a normal day to day thing. In the days of posses, a gun was a deterrent and protection from those who would abuse you, now that abuse comes from the devices we use every day. We need to apply that same thinking to IT.
Encrypt all of your local data on your hard drive, internal and external. Encrypt and sign your email. When possible, use HTTPS instead of HTTP when using websites that you log into and create content, like Twitter or Facebook. Split uses of sites into browser profiles, so it gives those gathering the data less to work with about you; this in turn gives the government less to work with when they come knocking to profile you. Use the addons available to protect your own data in your browser of choice. Create a user account on your PC and require a password to log in and decrypt it.
I encourage you to visit their blog and read the article. The overall, longterm effect of most of us continuing to feed our private data to corporations and goverment agencies is to make us hostages. This is also the effect of "real name policies" for joining sites or making comments: you become a hostage.
If someone can see all of your interactions, everything you've said or written, that person has power over you. They can, for example, tell your boss about the time you compared him to a part of your anatomy. They can tell the local law enforcement about your youthful (or not so youthful) indiscretions. They can tell your spouse about the time you cheated with the blonde in Accounting. Or they can blackmail you, making you their puppet.
So, no, encryption is not about protecting criminals and terrorists. Encryption is about privacy for individuals and groups of individuals. It is about the freedom to say "I believe ..." without harassment. Indeed, in the current social climate, religious believers should be using encrypted communications as a matter of course.
Does this make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs? No, not really. Mass surveilance produces tons of false leads that bury the occasional signals that indicate someone might be involved in criminal activities. When most people use encryption, it frees police to focus on real crime, not on muzzling thought and speech.
Do you remember the Miranda warning that police have to give people during the arrest process? "You have a right to remain silent." That's what encryption is. Remaining silent. "If you give up your right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." Thats what unencrypted communications are: you're volunteering to allow third parties to monitor, copy, publish, and distribute your message, and to use the content of your message to bring you harm.
The difference is that Miranda only applies to arrested suspects, while encryption applies to everyone.