In August 2018, the leading international academic conference on cryptography hosted a Workshop on Encryption and Surveillance. The workshop explored both legal and technical aspects of the ongoing debate over the impact of strong encryption and law enforcement surveillance capabilities. The workshop was co-chaired by Tim Edgar (Brown University), Joan Feigenbaum (Yale University), and me. As we described it at the time:
Daniel J. Weitzner is Director of the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. From 2011-2012, Weitzner was United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy in the White House. Weitzner’s computer science research has pioneered the development of Accountable Systems architecture to enable computational treatment of legal rules and automated compliance auditing. He teaches Internet public policy in MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Before joining MIT in 1998, Weitzner was founder and Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Deputy Policy Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Weitzner has law degree from Buffalo Law School, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Swarthmore College.
Subscribe to this Lawfare contributor via RSS.
The shocking misuse of personal data by Cambridge Analytica, actively facilitated by Facebook, was a preventable harm. Hundreds of thousands of individuals who thought they were participating in an academic research project were used as seed corn for a large-scale, unethical profiling scheme. Tens of millions more then had their personal data swept into broad, profit-making political experimentation that gave unscrupulous advertisers the ability to target messages based on highly sensitive personality properties.
Author’s note: Despite appearing under my byline, this post actually represents the work of a larger group. The Keys Under Doormats group includes Harold Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven M. Bellovin, Josh Benaloh, Matt Blaze,Whitfield Diffie, John Gilmore, Matthew Green, Susan Landau, Peter G. Neumann, Ronald L. Rivest, Jeffrey I. Schiller, Bruce Schneier, Michael A.
One of the great technological advances of our time is the ability to put vast amounts of information to use for expanding scientific knowledge, making enterprises more efficient, increasing consumer convenience, and even protecting public safety. At the same time, the public is deeply mistrustful about how both government and the private sector use personal information about themselves.
With the benefit of historical hindsight a few years from now, we may look back on March 2016 as a turning point in the debate over encryption, surveillance and civil liberties. The new phase of the debate is characterized by a growing acceptance that mandatory, infrastructure-wide back doors are a bad idea. At the same time, political leaders elevate their demands that we in the tech community engage the question: if not back doors, then what?