At this moment encryption is a big no-no on ham radio bands. Rightfully so, if I may add. This is a hobby, encryption serves no purpose. Recent messages on QRZ.COM and the ARRL website however indicate that certain communications during rescue operations (think ‘sensitive’ information here) could warrant/require encryption. I wonder who will be the judge of that…
The FCC is inviting public comments on a proposal from a Massachusetts ham to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to permit the encryption of certain amateur communications during emergency operations or related training exercises. On June 7 the FCC accepted for filing a Petition for Rulemaking (RM-11699) from Don Rolph, AB1PH, and put it on public notice. It will remain open for comment until July 7. Rolph, of E Walpole, petitioned the Commission in March to suggest an additional exception to §97.113, which currently prohibits “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.”
I think it’s a typical USA thing. I can’t remember any situation here when ham radio operators played a role during rescue operations. The last time, I think, was during the North Sea flood in 1953. In Europe allowing citizens to use encryption would be unthinkable anyway. The governments here like to listen in, while making sure citizens can’t listen in to them. That’s the way it is nowadays. Politics, I know, but important to know.
Another interesting post on this subject comes from Bob K0NR:
… but I am also worried about opening the door to significant use of encryption on the ham bands. The problem with encrypted messages is that…wait for it…you can’t decode the messages. So how do we maintain that self-policing thing? The fear seems to be that if we open the door at all to encryption, it will enable virtually anyone (amateur license or not) to transmit encrypted messages for unknown and inappropriate purposes.
My opinion, for what it’s worth: I still think it serves no purpose and opens the door to abuse. The last thing you should worry about during a disaster is how many people can listen in. Your listeners could even save the day by helping out with expertise you’re looking for.