Law enforcement in a world where encryption is ubiquitous

11 November 2015 - A Workshop on Other in João Pessoa, Brazil


In light of the Snowden pervasive surveillance disclosures, there appears to be broader and growing interest in the use and the availability of encryption solutions, particularly those that provide end-to-end protection. 

Trusted end-to-end encryption solutions are one of the key tools by which Internet users can protect the confidentiality of their communications in the digital age. They also serve to reinforce user confidence, which is fundamental for a successful digital economy.

At the same time, concerns have been raised by law enforcement and others regarding what impact pervasive use of encryption solutions for Internet traffic might have on their activities. There have even been suggestions to prohibit the use of encryption, to require backdoors for governments, to limit the level of permitted complexity, or otherwise weaken cryptographic standards.

In a post-Snowden era, how do we balance the legitimate security needs of governments to protect their citizens from very real threats - and at the same time allow people to have a level of privacy from government intrusiveness?

Are calls for “legitimate encryption backdoors” technically feasible and/or desirable? 

How can we understand and implement the legal notion of proportionality?

Are law enforcement, national security objectives and Internet users’ legitimate expectations of secure confidential online communications compatible at all?

What effect might pervasive use of encryption solutions have on other objectives, e.g. network management?

In essence, how to reasonably achieve public policy objectives such as law enforcement/national security in a world where encrypted Internet traffic is the norm?

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