Policy, Law, and Technology in the Current Crypto Wars

November 2, 2016 12:00 pm to 6:45 pm

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Stanford Cryptography Policy Project, we are holding an afternoon event highlighting our research and accomplishments over the past year. As our keynote speakers, it is our pleasure to welcome the Honorable Stephen W. Smith, Magistrate Judge of the Southern District of Texas, and Paul S. Grewal, former Magistrate Judge of the Northern District of California.

Encryption helps human rights workers, activists, journalists, financial institutions, innovative businesses, and governments protect the confidentiality, integrity, and economic value of their activities. However, strong encryption may mean that governments cannot make sense of data they would otherwise be able to lawfully access in a criminal or intelligence investigation. In the 1970s, and again in the 1990s, the U.S. government struggled with tradeoffs between its surveillance/law enforcement missions (potentially thwarted by crypto) and its information assurance/crime prevention missions (furthered by crypto). In the main, these debates were resolved in favor of allowing the proliferation of strong crypto.

Today, the crypto policy issue is front page news. The Stanford Center for Internet and Society and the Computer Science Department have been able to take a place at the forefront of that debate. With funding from the Stanford Cyber Initiative, we launched the Crypto Policy Project in October of 2015. The project explores the following questions: What are the technical options for designing surveillance-friendly software systems, and what are the security tradeoffs for these systems? How is the U.S. government trying to regulate encryption, and what have the outcomes been so far? Does the U.S. government have the legal authority and/or other capacity to force companies to adopt particular crypto implementations, and if so, should it? 

We will explore these questions at this event.

Suggested Reading: We've compiled background reading suggestions that might be of interest to you before you attend our event.

Co-sponsored by the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, the Stanford Computer Science Department, and the Stanford Cyber Initiative






Registration Open

NOTE: We are not providing lunch for this event. Please be sure to eat lunch before you come to the event. Alternatively, you can bring your own lunch. Here are locations near Paul Brest Hall with dining options

We are providing afternoon refreshments and a reception at the end of the event. 


Event Starts


Welcome Remarks

Barbara van Schewick

Professor of Law and Helen L. Crocker Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School, Director of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, and Associate Professor (by courtesy) of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University


Panel 1

Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties, Stanford Center for Internet and Society

Riana Pfefferkorn, Cryptography Fellow, Stanford Center for Internet and Society

Riana and Jennifer will present the Crypto Policy Project's legal work and report on their progress in obtaining government and court documents for public review. Their work aims to bring greater transparency to the government’s efforts to influence or bypass private companies' encryption designs for purposes of law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.


Break - Refreshments will be provided


Panel 2

Professor Dan Boneh and several Ph.D. students from the Stanford Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Departments will present their latest research on selected topics in applied cryptography. Their presentations will include:

· Professor Boneh on communication systems that hide metadata

· Henry Corrigan-Gibbs on private data collection

· Valeria Nikolaenko on verifiable warrants

· Judson Wilson on auditing encrypted "Internet of Things" devices


Break - Refreshments will be provided


In Conversation: the Hon. Stephen W. Smith and Former Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal

Introduction: Al Gidari, Director of Privacy, Stanford Center for Internet and Society

The Crypto Policy Project is very pleased to welcome Judge Smith and Mr. Grewal to Stanford. Judge Smith and Mr. Grewal will engage in a "view from the bench" conversation about the federal government's surveillance efforts and the growing trend of secrecy in court proceedings. In addition to his cogent critique of court secrecy, Judge Smith has been at the forefront of federal magistrate judges' growing skepticism when faced with novel or overreaching government attempts to use the courts to approve expansive surveillance practices. Mr. Grewal served as a magistrate judge from 2010 until June 2016, when he joined the legal team at Facebook Inc. During his time on the bench, Mr. Grewal was an active voice in the "magistrates' revolt" led by Judge Smith, and he handled a number of high-profile cases addressing Americans' privacy rights online.

Hon. Stephen W. Smith, Magistrate Judge, Southern District of Texas

Stephen Wm. Smith is a U.S. Magistrate Judge sitting in Houston, Texas. Before taking the bench in 2004, he practiced law for 25 years with Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, specializing in labor and employment law. He received a BA in philosophy from Vanderbilt University, and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was editor of the Virginia Law Review and the Virginia Journal of International Law. He is Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center and Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University. Judge Smith is the author of several opinions of first impression on electronic surveillance, and in 2010 was invited to testify at a congressional hearing on Electronic Communications Privacy Act reform. He is currently an advisor to the American Law Institute project on Principles of the Law, Police Investigations.

Paul S. Grewal, Former Magistrate Judge, Northern District of California

Paul Singh Grewal is Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Litigation at Facebook Inc. Before joining Facebook earlier this year, Paul served as United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of California. During that time, he was appointed by Chief Justice Roberts to the Magistrate Judges Education Committee of the Federal Judicial Center.

Before his appointment to the bench, Paul was a partner at Day Casebeer LLP (later merged with Howrey LLP), where he served on the firm's management committee and his practice was focused on technology litigation. He has tried cases from Marshall, Texas to Wilmington, Delaware, and has argued before various federal appellate courts. Paul served as a law clerk to Federal Circuit Judge Arthur J. Gajarsa and United States District Judge Sam H. Bell. He received his JD from the University of Chicago Law School and his SB from MIT.

Paul and his wife Gowri have been married 20 years and are the proud parents of Calvin and Sarina.




Event Ends




In advance of the event, attendees may wish to familiarize themselves with the event’s subject matter and speakers through the following suggested background reading:

Litigation work by CIS:

Research from the Stanford Applied Cryptography Group:

Background on our keynote speakers:

General background reading:

  • Keys Under Doormats, award-winning paper by some of the world’s foremost cryptographers explaining the dangers of mandating encryption backdoors
  • Opinion from February 2016 by Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York, rejecting the government’s assertion of authority under the All Writs Act to require Apple's technical assistance in unlocking an iPhone; press coverage in the New York Times


Paul Brest Hall
555 Salvatierra Walk
Stanford, CA

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