In modern democracies, societies are built not only on checks and balances but also on the notion of trust. In the digital age, trust is strengthened through a variety of technologies that provide for online privacy and security. Encryption technologies are one key example. They allow users to securely communicate and do business online, and to protect data on a computer, a phone or in the cloud. However, those technologies are also available for less benevolent purposes, providing criminals with means to protect their communication and data. This has put encryption at the centre of a debate on the tension between online security and the notion of national security. Even after years of struggles - most recently between the FBI and Apple - battle lines remain murky, and key questions unanswered. Are law enforcement agencies really "going dark"? Should (and can) societies make any compromises on the use of encryption technologies? What are the ethical obligations for the technical and academic communities? If multistakeholder institutions, such as the IETF, set standards on encryption that will be adopted broadly, how does multistakeholder governance impact best practices, the development and the implementation of such standards? What effect had the Snowden disclosures on IETF processes? If we accept the broad and easy use of encryption technologies, should government agencies have other tools at hand to fight criminals? And finally, where do we stand on this debate in Germany and what can we do to help define a united European position?
On Wednesday, 20 July 2016 - on the occasion of this year's IETF meeting being held in Berlin - we addressed these and similar questions in an open debate on the politics of encryption. The discussion were launched by a conversation between Joe Hall (Center for Democracy & Technology, CDT), Linus Neumann (Chaos Computer Club, CCC) and Christine Runnegar (Internet Society, ISOC), and moderated by Mirko Hohmann (Global Public Policy Institute, GPPi). All guests and participants were invited to join the debate and to openly discuss the role that civil society and the technical community could and should play in defining our approach to encryption technologies, and more widely in Internet policy and governance.