The intersection of business and encryption, and the implications for practice and policy

1 July 2016


CSaP worked with Dr Ella McPherson, a Lecturer in the Sociology of New Media and Digital Technology, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, to deliver a Policy Workshop on the 'business of encryption'. The workshop focused on understanding how governments, corporations, and civil society are thinking about the intersection between business and encryption, and how researchers might engage with it.

The workshop took place on 8 June, the same day the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill was voted through the House of Commons, which (if it passes through the House of Lords) will allow the UK government increased access to communications data in order to combat crime, terrorism and other threats to our national security.

Encryption is the mathematical manipulation of information to render it readable solely by the person intended to receive it. Encryption policies are part of the business models of digital communications companies, and encryption technologies represent a business opportunity—as does their underutilisation by UK businesses, which provides opportunities for cybercriminals.

Furthermore, encryption underpins the digital economy; online banking, as well as all online transactions, would not be secure without it. As the implications of the Bill are debated, it is more important than ever to understand how governments, corporations, and civil society are thinking about the business of encryption.

The workshop, held under the Chatham House rule, brought together a diverse range of perspectives from the research, policy, and technology sectors. Beginning with an overview of the political landscape, discussion focused on encryption and the economy as well as on encryption and technology companies and concluded with the identification of significant research gaps in this space.

A full report of the workshop can be downloaded here.

(Banner image c/o Christiaan Colen via Flickr)

Dr Ella McPherson

Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge