Paper 2015/1162

The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work

Phillip Rogaway


Cryptography rearranges power: it configures who can do what, from what. This makes cryptography an inherently \textit{political} tool, and it confers on the field an intrinsically \textit{moral} dimension. The Snowden revelations motivate a reassessment of the political and moral positioning of cryptography. They lead one to ask if our inability to effectively address mass surveillance constitutes a failure of our field. I believe that it does. I call for a community-wide effort to develop more effective means to resist mass surveillance. I plea for a reinvention of our disciplinary culture to attend not only to puzzles and math, but, also, to the societal implications of our work.

Note: * Paper corresponding to an IACR Distinguished Lecture given at Asiacrypt 2015. A one-page abstract appears in those proceedings. * A version of this paper with endnotes instead of footnotes can be found on the author's homepage.

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Preprint. MINOR revision.
cryptographyethicsmass surveillanceprivacySnowdensocial responsiblity
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rogaway @ cs ucdavis edu
2017-06-19: last of 12 revisions
2015-12-02: received
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      author = {Phillip Rogaway},
      title = {The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2015/1162},
      year = {2015},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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