Dr. Ann Cavoukian, now Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University, is a long-time advocate for the protection of privacy and the protection of information in the digital age. In her December 9th op ed piece in the Globe and Mail, she highlights the benefits of uncompromised encryption in the protection of democracy.
Law enforcement agents now can trace digital communications for the purposes of prosecution and crime prevention. Modern communications, however, are often encrypted, and the only way to decipher them is to have a key. The key is held by the parties to the communication. In the face of atrocities like the Paris attack and the one in San Bernardino, there is mounting pressure on encryption providers to build alternate decryption “back doors” into their software so that that the encryption is not a barrier to investigation.
Ann Cavoukian says this is misguided. First, a back door would apply to all of the providers’ clients, opening up the possibility of unfettered state access to citizens’ communications. Second, hackers and cyber criminals will take great pride in picking the back door lock – further compromising our privacy and security. Ultimately Dr. Cavoukian makes the case that there is much more harm to be done by requiring back door decryption than good, and that a free and democratic society depends on the protection of privacy and personal information. Yes, she argues, let’s get the bad guys, but not at the expense of our digital privacy.