Brief session description:
Thursday, July 14, 2016 – The latest debates over encryption tie into ongoing and continually emerging conflicts between the values of privacy and security in the digital age. This panel discussed these values in regard to legal standards and norms, both reflecting and protecting core U.S. values (among them privacy, the Bill of Rights) and understanding the need to consider the values of others globally. Panelists considered several proposals currently before Congress then followed with a discussion of the ideas they raise. Read a written account and see video highlights on this page or view the full archived session here.
Details of the session:
The session was moderated by Tim Starks, cybersecurity reporter for Politico. Panelists included:
- Alex Joel, civil liberties protection officer, U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence
- Justin (Gus) Hurwitz, assistant professor, Nebraska College of Law, and visiting professor, American Enterprise Institute
- Amie Stepanovich, U.S. policy manager for Access Now
- Matt Mitchell, data analyst with CryptoHarlem
- Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for privacy and technology, American Civil Liberties Union
- Joan O’Hara, counsel, U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security
- Andrew Lachman, legislative director for Rep. Ted W. Lieu
Panelists disagreed sharply about encryption and the conflicts over legal values attached to it in a debate about privacy versus security.
Although the panelists didn’t always agree on about encryption and regulation, they came to a consensus that right now it’s a tough issue to tackle with no clear answers. They also agreed that in order to create a greater conversation around the topic, privacy and security need to be thought of as one, rather than pitted against one another.
“It is not an either/or choice,” said Alex Joel, a civil liberties protection officer. “It’s really an ‘and.’”
Neema Singh Guliani, legistlative counsel for privacy and technology for the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed, saying that it’s necessary for all voices on the topic to be represented. Each opinion on the privacy and security sides needs to have “equal weight” in affecting the outcome because, “encryption affects everyone,” she said. She urged that privacy and security should be a subject debated in public.
“It shouldn’t be a conversation that has a secret cloak over it,” she said.
Joel added that information tied to the privacy/security debate should be transparent to the public.
“We need to find a way to speak with one another in ways we both understand so we aren’t making the wrong choices,” he said.
Justin Hurwitz, a visiting professor at the American Enterprise Institute, advocated closer ties between technology companies and government. “Today we are seeing a complete divide between the government side and the tech side,” he said, adding that he would like to see the most brilliant crytographers working not for the NSA but in Silicon Valley “doing brilliant things and working with the government to design technologies in a way that works with the needs of national defense and criminal law and other aspects of law and policy.”
Encryption is a human rights issue
Given all of the different voices and factors related to encryption, Joan O’Hara, the general counsel at the Committee on Homeland Security, said she wonders how the nation might decide a policy that makes sense.
Andrew Lachman, legislative director for Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), said answering this question starts by assuring that the federal government makes decisions regarding encryption issues, not the states. According to Lachman, this is what Lieu’s Encrypt Act centers around.
Amie Stepanovich, U.S. policy manager for Access Now, said regardless of who makes encryption policies, they shouldn’t allow mass surveillance. Instead, Stepanovich pushed for more targeted surveillance. Blanket surveillance, she said, is not in line with human rights.
“Encryption is central to the human rights debate,” she urged.
Mitchell says ‘Encryption allows us to be free and American’
Matt Mitchell, a data analyst with CryptoHarlem, seconded Stepanovich’s opinion, saying those participating in the privacy/security conversation must understand that they’re affecting some Americans more than others, often those who are marginalized. Encryption grants people civil liberties and it is part of what makes the United States the country that it is, he added.
“Encryption allows us to be free and American,” Mitchell said.
Moderator Tim Starks, cybersecurity reporter for Politico, noted that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) advocates strict regulation of encryption because of human rights issues. Starks asked the panel if they agreed with McCain’s statement that encryption policies are necessary to fight human traffickers and child pornographers.
O’Hara agreed that encryption is definitely helping both traffickers and child pornographers, but added that this doesn’t make it innately bad.
“It is just a tool,” she said. “It’s not good or bad in and of itself. How it’s applied, how it’s used, that’s what makes it good or bad.”
Fighting these few users who exploit encryption, the extremists, Joel said, is like searching for a needle in a haystack. There is a lot of noise, but the signal is nowhere to be found he said.
Stepanovich said that globally countries are watching each other to see what others are doing when it comes to encryption and regulation. She said they will and have already begun to emulate each other. For example, China and Russia have passed strict encryption policies, with other countries to follow suit.
“If the U.S. is going to take a leadership role [on supporting encryption], we have to do it now,” Stepanovich added.
– By Kailey Tracy
The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2016 included the following Elon University School of Communications students, staff and faculty:
Bryan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Bryan Baker, Elizabeth Bilka, Ashley Bohle, Courtney Campbell, Colin Donohue, Melissa Douglas, Mackenzie Dunn, Maya Eaglin, Christina Elias, Rachel Ellis, Caroline Hartshorn, Paul LeBlanc, Emmanuel Morgan, Joey Nappa, Diego Pineda Davila, Alyssa Potter, Kailey Tracy, Andrew Steinitz, Anna Zwingelberg