DOOMED TO REPEAT HISTORY? Lessons from the Crypto Wars of the 1990s EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
ABOUT THE OPEN TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE The Open Technology Institute at New America is committed to freedom and social justice in the digital age. To achieve these goals, it intervenes in traditional policy debates, builds technology, and deploys tools with communities. OTI brings together a unique mix of technologists, policy experts, lawyers, community organizers, and urban planners to examine the impacts of technology and policy on people, commerce, and communities. Our current focus areas
... de surveillance, privacy and security, network neutrality, broadband access, and Internet governance. ABOUT THE CYBERSECURITY INITIATIVE The Internet has connected us. Yet the policies and debates that surround the security of our networks are too often disconnected, disjointed, and stuck in an unsuccessful status quo. This is what New America's Cyberse-curity Initiative is designed to address. Working across our International Security Program and the Open Technology Institute, we believe that it takes a wider network to face the multitude of diverse security issues. We engage across organizations, issue areas, professional fields, and business sectors. And through events, writing and research, our aim is to help improve cybersecurity in ways that work-for the countries, for companies and for individuals. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors would like to thank In the past year, a conflict has erupted between technology companies, privacy advocates, and members of the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities over the right to use and distribute products that contain strong encryption technology. This debate between government actors seeking ways to preserve access to encrypted communications and a coalition of pro-encryption groups is reminiscent of an old battle that played out in the 1990s: a period that has come to be known as the "Crypto Wars." This paper tells the story of that debate and the lessons that are relevant to today. It is a story not only about policy responses to new technology, but also a sustained, coordinated effort among industry groups, privacy advocates, and technology experts from across the political spectrum to push back against government policies that threatened online innovation and fundamental human rights. Encryption is a method by which two parties can communicate securely. Although it has been used for centuries by the military and intelligence communities to send sensitive messages, the debate over the public's right to use encryption began after the discovery of "public key cryptography" in 1976. In a seminal paper on the subject, two researchers named Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman demonstrated how ordinary individuals and businesses could securely communicate data over modern communications networks, challenging the government's longstanding domestic monopoly on the use of electronic ciphers and its ability to prevent encryption from spreading around the world. By the late 1970s, individuals within the U.S. government were already discussing how to solve the "problem" of the growing individual and commercial use of strong encryption. War was coming.