6.805 | Fall 2005 | Undergraduate

Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier


Assignment 6

Assignments: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11


This week’s class will be about encryption. Hal will give a review/survey of encryption technology, and then we’ll discuss government attempts to regulate encryption through the 90s, together with recent developments relating to concerns about voice over IP.

Before Class

You should do the following reading before class, and be prepared to discuss it:

  • John Perry Barlow, Jackboots on the Infobahn, Wired, 1994. This is an early article in the Clipper debate.
  • Stewart Baker, Don’t Worry Be Happy: Why Clipper Is Good For You, Wired, May 1994, This piece by the then chief counsel of the NSA, was an early salvo in the crypto wars. Looking back from the perspective of today, what do you think of the arguments presented by Barlow and Baker?
  • Whit Diffie, Washington’s Computer Insecurity, New York Times op-ed, August 1995. As you read this, think about what’s happened since 1995, and whether Whit’s arguments ring true today.
  • Hal Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven Bellovin, Josh Benaloh, Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, John Gilmore, Peter Neumann, Ronald Rivest, Jeffrey Schiller, and Bruce Schneier, The Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow, and Trusted Third-Party Encryption (PDF), May 1997. Read carefully at least through the preface, executive summary, and group charter, and skim the rest.
  • Senator Backs Off Backdoors, Wired News, October 17, 2001.
  • FCC requires some broadband and VoIP Providers to accommodate wiretaps, VOIP Blog, September 26, 2005.

Extra (Optional)

If you haven’t used voice over IP, you should. Download Skype and and play with it. You should do this with a partner, so you’ll have someone to talk to.


The midterm is after Lec #7.

Note: Starting next week, we’ll begin assigning readings from the two books we asked you to get for the class:

  • Brin, David. The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? New York, NY: Perseus Books, 1999. ISBN: 0738201448.
  • O’Harrow, Robert. No Place to Hide: Behind the Scenes of Our Emerging Surveillance Society. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2005. ISBN: 0743254805.