The encryption debate

1:40 -2:40 PM

Whetherin Australia,the United States, the United Kingdom or mainland Europe, the debate around law enforcement access to encrypted information (known as “exceptional access”) is heating up.

In the United Kingdom, the government is beginning to feel out its new mandate for exceptional access under the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act. In Australia, the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 grants the Australian government new powers to compel access to encrypted data. And in the United States, the Department of Justice have renewed its push for exceptional access mandates as well.

In this discussion, panellists will explore the shifting global debate on law enforcement access to encrypted data, the technical realities of end-to-end encryption and exceptional access, and what it could mean for Canadians and Canadian policy.


Brenda McPhail, Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Privacy, Surveillance, and Technology Program
Christopher Parsons, Citizen Lab
Ian Goldberg, University of Waterloo

Brenda McPhail is the Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Privacy, Surveillance, and Technology Program. Her portfolio focuses on litigation, advocacy and public education relating to the ways in which privacy rights are at risk in contemporary society. Current areas of focus include national security, intelligence, and law enforcement surveillance technologies; information sharing in the public and private sector; and the social impacts of existing and emerging technologies such as smart city tech, facial recognition, the internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence.

Significant cases she has guided for CCLA, working with amazing pro bono counsel, include the Supreme Court of Canada cases R. v. Marakah and R v. Jones, which confirmed privacy rights in electronic communications and R. V. Jarvis, in which the Court rejected the idea that privacy is an all-or-nothing concept, even in public spaces. Brenda received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information.

Dr. Christopher Parsons received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Guelph, and his Ph.D from the University of Victoria. He is a Senior Research Associate at Citizen Lab, in the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy with the University of Toronto. His research focuses on third-party access to telecommunications data, data privacy, data security, and national security. In addition to publishing in academic journals and presses on topics such as national security, internet privacy, and government surveillance practices, he routinely presents findings to members of government and the media. His work has been recognized by information and privacy commissioners, Canadian political parties, and national and international non-profits as advancing the state of privacy discourse.

Ian Goldberg is the Canada Research Chair in Privacy Enhancing Technologies.  He is a Professor in the Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, where he is a founding member of the Cryptography, Security, and Privacy (CrySP) research group.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he discovered serious weaknesses in a number of widely deployed security systems, including those used by cellular phones and wireless networks.

He also studied systems for protecting the personal privacy of Internet users, which led to his role as Chief Scientist at Zero-Knowledge Systems, a Montreal-based startup.  His research currently focuses on developing usable and useful technologies to help Internet users maintain their security and privacy.  He is a Distinguished Member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a winner of the Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Award, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award, the USENIX Security Test of Time Award, and the Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies.