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Jakarta Declaration Calls on Governments to Recognize Legitimacy of Encryption

Today in Indonesia, media leaders gathered at UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day event issued the "Jakarta Declaration" calling on governments of the world to recognize the importance of a free and independent media in creating "peaceful, just and inclusive societies". The declaration calls on governments to take steps to support the freedom of the press, and, in the midst of the many actions was this statement:

34. Recognise the legitimacy of the use of encryption and anonymisation technologies;

As a long-time advocate for the widespread usage of encryption to protect our personal communication, I was extremely pleased to see this statement included in the declaration.

My colleague Constance Bommelaer wrote in detail yesterday about WHY encryption is so critical for journalists:

The future of the free press is at risk: encryption is part of the solution

She ends the piece with this call to action:

Governments have a role too. We invite them to adopt the SecureTheInternet principles and to support strong encryption, not only to ensure the safety of journalists, but also as a technology that already allows us to do our banking, conduct local and global business, run our power grids, operate communications networks, and do almost everything else.

As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, we must remember that journalists and their sources are taking enormous risks right now in making sure crucial stories get told.

In today's environment, where trust in online information is at an all-time low, we need free, safe and independent journalists more than ever. We all have a role to play, and encryption is one step to take us there.

We all DO have a role. And encryption is part of how we get there.

I encourage you all to share this news about the Jakarta Declaration; to share the Jakarta Declaration document itself; to learn more about encryption; and to help people understand why encryption is critical for securing our digital economy!

By Dan York, Author and Speaker on Internet technologies - and on staff of Internet Society – Dan is the Director of Web Strategy, and Project Lead, Open Standards Everywhere, for the Internet Society but opinions posted on CircleID are his own. View more of Dan's writing and audio here. Visit Page

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Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet


Your position is untenable By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 09, 2017 7:46 am PDT

The right of Nation States to demand access to electronic communications unencrypted has existed in treaty instruments since 1850 when networks were first interconnected across borders.  It persisted in every related global treaty instrument since that time and exists today.

Encrypting traffic also breaks the ability for network operators to comply with almost every compliance obligation as well as the ability to effectively manage their networks and provide cyber security to end users.

The protection of journalists is an important objective.  Doing it to advance your own personal or institutional views on encryption seems rather self serving.

We will have to agree to disagree By Dan York  –  May 09, 2017 2:05 pm PDT

Tony, you and I will just have to disagree on this one.

The facts are what they are By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 09, 2017 2:24 pm PDT

We can agree that journalists deserve protection.  The public international law of communication networks has been well established for the past 117 years.  Ref. the extensive list of citations and treaty instruments.  The broad array of adverse effects of communication encryption on the wire are also well established.  See also the extensive citations to authoritative materials. 

If you somehow believe that there is some kind of alternative reality out there, it might be useful for readers to understand the basis for your disagreement, Dan.  It also seems disingenuous to take some agreed need like the protection of journalists and use it as a basis for advancing some personal or institutional view on encryption.

You are confusing legal facts with real-world facts. By The Famous Brett Watson  –  May 10, 2017 1:01 am PDT

The public international law of communication networks has been well established for the past 117 years.

Just as well that technology hasn't changed in the last 117 years, then.

Which is the real world? By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 10, 2017 3:42 am PDT

The rather remarkable facts underlying the public international law provisions is the continuity of norms notwithstanding dramatically different technologies.  In many ways, the emergence of radiocommunication was more challenging than connectionless packet networks a/k/a internets.  The bottom line is that no rational Nation State is likely to ever eliminate a sovereign right to inspect electronic communication when its national security and infrastructure protection is dependent on the capabilities.

The real world is the one in which encryption is something individuals do. By The Famous Brett Watson  –  May 10, 2017 5:24 am PDT

Packet switching isn't the issue. The issue, and the reality, is that parties can encrypt their communication without the cooperation or consent of the communications carrier. You spoke of "the right of Nation States to demand access to electronic communications unencrypted." You're conflating two issues: interception and encryption. Interception is a demand placed on the carrier by the government, but end-to-end encryption has nothing to do with the carrier. The "unencrypted" text is whatever enters the carrier's network and passes through the other side.

So, are we talking about regulating carriers, or private individuals? There's a deadly serious difference between the two. You make it sound like this is all about telecommunications law, but you're introducing concept creep by applying the same idea to the data that users choose to communicate.

It is national security law By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 10, 2017 6:50 am PDT

Lawful Interception is NOT just a demand placed on carriers by government.  It is any lawful basis for accessing electronic communication and there are a wide array of requirements to do so both public and private.  See Design Requirements Ecosystem.  The requirements also include encryption, and that conflation has existed since 1850 and is found in every network related treaty instrument since then.  At that time, encryption was known as "secret language" and as can be found in the David Kahn Library, related books have existed since the dawn of printing.  See also, John Johnson's The Evolution of British Sigint 1653-1939.

Anyone carrying electronic communication unless contracted otherwise, can demand access to encrypted content, defeat it, or prevent it including dumping the packets.  Government national security requirements can also override any contractual requirements. 

This is not scope creep.  It is part of international treaty provisions for the past 117 years, and no nation is likely to forfeit that sovereign right.  There is no absolute individual right to encrypted electronic communication, nor is that likely to ever occur.

Authoritarianism suits you. By The Famous Brett Watson  –  May 10, 2017 11:00 am PDT

Authoritarianism suits you.

Systems of law suit me By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 10, 2017 2:29 pm PDT

We are dealing with systems of law here that include conflicts among multiple objectives and needs.  The same systems of law enabled public global internetworks for the first time via the 1988 Melbourne treaty.  Other instruments provide protections to journalists.  Legal systems as an alternative to mayhem does suit me.

Fine, so long as you are candid about it being a matter of opinion. By The Famous Brett Watson  –  May 11, 2017 8:40 am PDT

Believe it or not, I respect your opinion, even if I distrust it. The point is that Dan had it right in comment #2 — that "we disagree" concludes the argument. You muddied the waters in comment #3 by posturing as though you had facts on your side. This is all an expression of political temperament, not a technical discussion based in facts.

For the record, I believe in the rule of law, but it's a balancing act. The absence of law is the law of the jungle, but excessive law is the weapon of a tyrant. At this point in history, I'm more concerned about thought police than I am about nefarious communication, particularly since honest free expression is so much more easily targeted than a genuine bad actor.

Back to an untenable position By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 11, 2017 8:50 am PDT

You may be more concerned about thought police.  However, most of the rest of the world weighs that balance differently - has they have for the past 117 years.  There isn't much new here. 

And, by the way, the number of "genuine bad actors" are far more numerous by several orders of magnitude than those suffering because of their free expressions, and the consequences of not mitigating the adverse effects is also several orders of magnitude more serious.  Your position is untenable, and this is far more than a matter of political viewpoint.

Asserted without evidence, and likewise dismissed. Done By The Famous Brett Watson  –  May 11, 2017 10:44 am PDT

Asserted without evidence, and likewise dismissed. Done here.

Trolling from down under By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 11, 2017 1:17 pm PDT

Without evidence?  In what universe?

It is also apparent from CircleID's own record, in your own words, you seem to argue in your 346 trolling comments (to 4 short blogs) that adverse consequences don't matter and that unfettered networks are better.  That is a position unlikely to persuade most service providers, users, or Nation States.  It's not worth arguing the matter, even with a "famous" person. :-)

Lobbying from a posture of moral superiority By The Famous Brett Watson  –  May 12, 2017 12:59 am PDT

That is a position unlikely to persuade most service providers, users, or Nation States.

An important observation if one's aim is to impose one's values on others.

It's not worth arguing the matter ...

At last, something on which we are in full agreement.

just to put things into perspective ... By Herbie Feinbein  –  May 11, 2017 7:10 am PDT

for those how did not know him.

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DNS Abuse Forum - May 25