Waikato Uni team to research governments’ power to order decryption

The team hopes the results of their research — due to be completed in late 2018 — will provide a solid base for future policy development

A team of University of Waikato academics has embarked on an investigation into the vexed question of whether governments should have the right to compel organisations to decrypt customer data in their pursuit of criminals and terrorists

The team hopes the results of their research — due to be completed in late 2018 — will provide a solid base for future policy development.

Dr Michael Dizon from the University’s Faculty of Law said that, so far as he is aware, no government in the world had found a solution to the question of whether governments should have the right to compel companies like Apple or Spark to decrypt data from criminals or terrorists, or whether companies should have the power to protect individuals’ private data from Big Brother-type intrusion.

Dizon is working with the University’s dean of law, associate professor Wayne Rumbles, and with associate professor Ryan Ko, director of the New Zealand Institute for Security and Crime Science.

They plan to examine current laws and technologies related to encryption and to gather input from companies, the government and users.

Ko said the issue constituted a very complex problem. “For example, when considering access, the legal requirements across countries may present restrictions or loopholes in a boundaryless internet environment.”

Rumbles said the modern integrated digital life brought with it increased vulnerabilities and expanded opportunity for criminal offending or civil transgressions.  “The challenge is how to regulate a balance between the legitimate and illegal use of the technologies while facilitating development and maintaining the integrity of the encryption systems.”

The research is being funded with a grant from the New Zealand Law Foundation’s Information Law and Policy Project, an independent $2 million research fund for projects that aim to better prepare New Zealand for the challenges of the information age. It was launched by Amy Adams, then minister of Justice and minister for communications, in August 2016.

Law Foundation director, Lynda Hagen, said the research would advance knowledge and multi-stakeholder conversation on encryption policy.

Read more: US attorney general says tech companies should help access encrypted evidence

 

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