The politics of encryption

11 Nov 2015 16:00h - 17:30h

Event report

The session ‘The Politics of Encryption’ focused on facilitating policy level discussions on encryption and ways to sensitise different stakeholders on the controversial issues that surround encryption.  

Bill Graham, the moderator for the session, briefed the audience on the need for a debate around encryption which is the buildings blocks for trust on the Internet.

Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament  explained how intelligence gathering has been legitimised in the name of offering security. At the same time technologies that can help to entirely secure people’s data are now deeply undesirable to enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Schaake added that the debate has changed since the Snowden revelations which led to companies speaking out against governments. This placed stress on rebuilding trust in the open Internet. She explained that a new balances and relations must be established between the different stakeholders without weakening encryption, and without adding back door technology. Additionally, she highlighted the fact that recently there has been more awareness in the EU Parliament about encryption.

Speaking on behalf of the governments, Frank Pace, Police Sergeant at Phoenix Police Department, explained why governments need access to encrypted data and how it can be used to prevent crime and increase the public’s safety.

Andrew Sullivan, Director of Dyn Inc, rejected his arguments by stating that revelations of data breach erode everybody’s trust in the network. He further emphasised that keeping the network of networks – the Internet –  an open place must occur through building trust and promoting the voluntary participation of people.

Mohammad Tarakiyee, APC coordinator for MENA, added that people who use encryption are often  demonised while in fact they are simply trying to protect their human rights in oppressive regimes.

Danny O’Brien, EFF, added that building platforms that can be trusted simply on the ground that governments or third party created them will no longer help address the problem of re-building individuals’ trust in technology. He stressed the need to reaffirm the trust people have of these technical platforms through strong encryption.

The panel agreed on the heightened need to create awareness among policy makers, politicians and Internet users of the issues of encryption, and to build their trust in the networks they rely on for their everyday communications.


By Krishna Kumar