It’s Too Complicated: The Conflict between the Technological Implications of IP-Based Communications and US Surveillance Law

14 Sep
Wednesday, 09/14/2016 12:00pm to 2:00pm
Computer Science Building, Room 150
CS Women Event
Speaker: Susan Landau

Abstract: Electronic surveillance law seeks to balance protecting the privacy of the people while enabling government's surveillance capabilities. In the US, legal frameworks governing surveillance have, for forty years, drawn a distinction between content and non-content components of communication. The non-content portion of a communication and those aspects of non-content being shared with a third party receive a lower degree of privacy protection than the content shared between two communicating parties. Such protections were developed in an era when public service telephony reigned. Today's communications systems, particularly on the Internet, are far more complex. In this talk, I show how complexity collapses traditional content/non-content distinctions and disrupts application of the third party doctrine to such an extent that, in many circumstances, they have become too difficult for courts to construe and apply consistently. It's too complicated.

The implications of this in-depth technical analysis are huge, overthrowing many aspects of surveillance law.  I will also provide recommendations as to how new electronic surveillance law should be shaped.

This is joint work with Steve Bellovin, Matt Blaze, and Stephanie Pell.

Speaker Bio:

Susan Landau works at the intersection of cybersecurity, national security, law, and policy.  During the Crypto Wars of the 1990s, her insights on how government encryption policy skewed civil society and business needs for security helped win the argument for a relaxation of cryptographic export controls.  Beginning in the early 2000s, Landau was an early voice in the argument that law-enforcement requirements for embedding surveillance within communications infrastructures created long-term national-security risks.  Her position that securing private-sector telecommunications was in the national-security interest ran contrary to public thinking at the time and deeply influenced policy makers and scholars. Landau's book "Surveillance or Security? The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies,'' (MIT Press) won the 2012 Surveillance Studies Book Prize, while "Privacy on the Line: the Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption'' co-authored with Whitfield Diffie (MIT Press, 1998) won the IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession and the McGannon Book Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communication Policy Research. Landau has testified to Congress and frequently briefed US and European policymakers on encryption, surveillance, and cybersecurity issues. Landau is Professor of Cybersecurity Policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and has previously been a Senior Staff Privacy Analyst at Google, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, and a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts and Wesleyan University. A 2015 inductee in the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame and a 2012 Guggenheim fellow, Landau was a 2010-2011 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the recipient of the 2008 Women of Vision Social Impact Award. She is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Association for Computing Machinery. She received her BA from Princeton, her MS from Cornell, and her PhD from MIT.