Philip R. Zimmermann is one of those Cryptographers who really had to fight it out to make a place for his product in this field. He was under the sword for three years, when the US government tried to prosecute him for trying to make his program PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a computer encryption program, available globally. PGP, which started out as Human Rights tool to preserve the right to freedom, was published as freeware on the Net in 1991 providing public key cryptography to anyone with a computer. To start out with, PGP was a monetary venture. But Senate Bill 266, which stated it legal for the Government to read anyone's encrypted message, was about to become law, and in view of avoiding the consequences such a law would have on the end user, he made it a free product.
The Government finally dropped charges in early 1996 after which he along with Jonathan Seybold turned his project into a company, PGP Inc. which went on to be taken over by NAI (Network Associates Inc.) a year later. He worked as a Senior Fellow there for three years and in 2001, PGP was taken over by a new company, PGP Corporation, where he currently works as a consultant on cryptography-related projects. Patrick Ball from AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) has even recalled that PGP was critical in protecting information during his authoring of the statistical patterns in human rights violations in Guatemala, for which he is grateful to Zimmermann.
Another one of his masterpieces was the cryptographic key agreement protocol for the Wireless USB standards. His latest project which aims at ensuring security during internet phone calls is called Zfone. He has been honored with the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design (1995), the Norbert Wiener Award (1996) and has also been names as one of the 50 most influential people on the Net by Newsweek. PGP made the 9th spot in the '25 Most Influential and Innovative Products' as decided by eWeek in 1996. What most people don't know about Phil is that he was a peace activist who was even arrested once during a nuclear disarmament protest, and it was during one such cold war that he came up with idea of PGP.
He has been involved with several prominent institutions like the International Association of Cryptologic Research, the Association for Computing Machinery, the League for Programming Freedom and the Roundtable on Scientific Communication and National Security. He is the Chairman of the OpenPGP Alliance, and is one of the Board of Directors for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. He is also a key member on the Advisory Boards for Anonymizer.com, Hush Communications, Debix, and Qualys.
- Phil Zimmermann's home page
- Conversation With Phil Zimmermann, GrepLaw