The Politics of Encryption

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


Encryption is a basic building block of trust on the Internet. It is needed to ensure freedom of speech, privacy and to facilitate e-commerce. Encryption ranges along a continuum from no encryption at all to unbreakable encryption with no backdoors. Technology, politics and public sentiment all factor in to determine the appropriate or socially optimal level of online encryption. This balance is not static, either over time or across countries. Often, technological moves toward high levels of encryption generate higher efforts to break encryption by state agencies, cueing off a proverbial “crypto war”. Likewise, extreme political positions either in favour or against encryption generate their opposite. These trends raise several questions that this panel will address: What is the appropriate balance of encryption online? How should the systems of Internet governance respond to changing levels of demand and supply of encryption? After the Snowden disclosures, what protocol design approaches are needed to bring trust back into the system? This panel will bring together experts from private business, government, technologists and civil society to discuss the politics of encryption. The intended outcome of this panel is to develop a forward looking perspective on the encryption debate. Given where we are, how can we move forward and what is the appropriate direction?

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