[cisb102sp04] L3_Q6_Encryption

  • From: cathy more <idamcer@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: cisb102sp04@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004 07:54:04 -0800 (PST)

The societal issue I chose to investigate was encryption.  Although it sounds 
more like a technical issue, it is also a societal issue.  I started by looking 
at the clipper chip.  This was a device the government wanted to install in all 
electronic communications devices during the 1990s.  Simply put it was an 
encryption chip.  The government would maintain control of the encryption 
algorithm, the resulting effect would be to allow decryption of any message it 
intercepted.  http://www.webopedia.com/   While on the surface this technology 
seems harmless enough, and down right essential for surveillance capabilities 
and national security concerns.  However, this built in ability to eavesdrop 
brought up societal issues touching on the 1st and 4th amendments.  Both the 
computer industry and the general public objected enough to this technology to 
force modifications in the standard, albeit for different reasons.  While the 
public concerns are of potential abuses, proper enforcement of
 application, and overall privacy rights - industry concerns were more about 
squelching new innovation in encryption with a single standard, the debate over 
what method was best, and the inevitable problem of a single point of failure 
compromising everyone.  An article found on  MIT's web site written in 1995 by 
A. Micheal Froomkin further explores the overall issues of a "distrustful 
society" where there is no privacy, and "everyone is open to surveillance at 
all times".  
My opinion on all of this is that public debate and the scrutiny of industry 
experts is essential in the use of encryption technology.  With that 
involvement maybe we can safely use encryption for the tool it is.  One result 
of the public debate was to modify the clipper chip into clipper2 and then 
clipper3.  Clipper3 allowed for any encryption method to be used, but required 
the keys to be given to the government if the device was exported from this 
country.  This seems like a reasonable compromise.
Cathy More

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