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Internet Society – Chatham House Lawful Access Simulation

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In April 2019, the Internet Society and Chatham House, with the MIT Internet Research Policy Initiative (IRPI), will stress-test exceptional access proposals with key decision-makers from all corners of society in a one-day simulation exercise. This by invitation-only event will be held under the Chatham House Rule at the Simulation Centre at Chatham House in London.

The simulation will consist of two scenarios focused around:

  • law enforcement access to a locked and encrypted smartphone
  • law enforcement access to end-to-end encrypted messaging app messages.

These scenarios will look at different methods law enforcement might use to gain access to content on an encrypted device or in an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, the steps that could be involved in obtaining access by all players, and the potential results and consequences of each method.

We are now inviting experts from all fields of expertise to contribute ideas for two scenarios. We would be happy to receive your contributions via: simulation@isoc.org.

Background

Encryption is a crucial tool for securing infrastructure, communications and information to support our digital society. It is also a way of creating private communications in a digital world where privacy is rapidly disappearing. A year on from the Internet Society-Chatham House Roundtable on Encryption and Lawful Access, the discussion concerning exceptional access to encrypted content has evolved.

There appears to be greater consensus in some countries that strong encryption is a vitally important security tool and should not be weakened, even for national security or law enforcement purposes.

However, as experts emphasized during the Roundtable:

“The challenge of encryption is not encryption: it’s the challenge of accessing data.”

So, some governments are nonetheless exploring ways to legally require companies to have the technical capability to provide access to encrypted content, when it is needed by law enforcement or intelligence agencies. Some assert this is achievable without weakening encryption. However, even if encryption remains untouched, there are real concerns about adverse consequences for the security of devices and services if companies are required to modify their systems to accommodate exceptional access.

The U.K. already has this power in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, Australia is heading the same way with the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, and the US. has tried to apply the All Writs Act through the courts to the same effect.

Contributing to developing scenarios

We invite you to imagine a scenario where law enforcement (choose your own country) might attempt to obtain access to the contents of an encrypted device and/or messages sent via an end-to-end encrypted messaging app – from the user of the device or one or more of the parties to the communication, by hacking (either directly or through a third party), or indirectly from the device manufacturer or service provider, or some other means. We ask you to consider the steps that could be involved in obtaining access by all the potential players, and the myriad of resulting events that could occur as a result of seeking access. Please do not assume that each path leads to access, nor that only one path could be taken. We ask that you look beyond legal and technical issues to the politics, social and economic implications.

Please send a 1-2 page outline of a scenario where law enforcement might attempt to obtain access to the contents of an encrypted device or messages sent via an end-to-end encrypted messaging app. The outline should focus on a single method that law enforcement may use to attempt to gain access, and include the potential implications presented by its use.

Contributions can be sent to simulation@isoc.org.

Thank you in advance for helping us to develop the content for the simulation in 2019. We may not ultimately reflect everyone’s ideas in the actual simulation, but even if we do not, we will still use the ideas to help us test and invent storylines in preparation for the simulation.

The outcome of the simulation

We will be reporting out the results of simulation after it is conducted in April 2019. Please return to this landing page after the event for more details.

Related events:

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Time

17:00
(date and time TBC)

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Location

Simulation Centre, Chatham House

London, United Kingdom

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