Q&A: Stanford’s Riana Pfefferkorn on ‘Responsible Encryption’

"In this excerpt from an interview on Law.com’s “Unprecedented” podcast, Stanford Law cryptography fellow Riana Pfefferkorn talks about the Department of Justice’s new push for “responsible encryption” and whether it could lead to new legislation. Listen to the full interview here, or subscribe to “Unprecedented” on your Apple or Android device.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Ben Hancock: You wrote in a blog post several weeks ago about “responsible encryption” and how the phrase was used by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Tell me about that speech and what struck you about that.

Riana Pfefferkorn: This was a speech that the deputy attorney general made to the Naval Academy a few weeks ago, and there were a few things that I found kind of noteworthy about that. One was this was really the first place I think we’ve seen the use of this term “responsible encryption.” Now, we’ve heard it before, going all the way back to then-FBI Director Louis Freeh back in the mid-90s, when he referred to “socially responsible encryption” during the previous round of the crypto wars, when at that time, the DOJ and FBI were already sounding the alarm about communications “going dark” due to new technologies, including encryption. But the U.S. Naval Academy speech was the first place where we’ve seen a term that the deputy attorney general has now been using quite frequently, “responsible encryption.”"