A recent Petition for Rule Making (RM-11699) seeks to permit the encryption of certain amateur communications during emergency operations or related training exercises. This change, should it be approved, would amend §97.113, which currently prohibits “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.”
On the face of it, it seems like a reasonable proposal. The petition asks that the rule be changed to allow encryption of certain information when passing messages that may contain sensitive information. Indeed, the petition says that such encryption may be required under the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The ARRL is against this petition. They say that the petition’s reasons for allowing encryption is completely unfounded. They say that radio amateurs, “are not ‘covered entities’ under HIPAA, which applies only to health care providers, health plans and health care clearinghouses.”
KE9V and others say that allowing encryption is a bad idea because it will hinder our ability to self-police amateur radio. KE9V also notes that allowing encryption would allow some to claim that amateur radio could be used for terrorist and other nefarious activities, and that could lead to a shutdown of amateur radio.
I think he’s got a point there. Why give those who would shut down amateur radio the ammo to do so?
KE9V goes on to say that it’s time for a wholesale reevaluation of our role in emergency communications. Amen, brother. It seems to me that as time goes on, what the “served agencies” need and want are becoming more and more different from what amateur radio is prepared to provide.