Monday, December 14, 2015

Cryptology professor has moral crisis

Bruce Schneier reports:
Phil Rogaway has written an excellent paper titled "The Moral Character of Cryptography Work." In it, he exhorts cryptographers to consider the morality of their research, and to build systems that enhance privacy rather than diminish it.
Rogaway's 46-page essay explains that he conducts his own personal inquisition:
Nowadays I ask computer-science faculty candidates to explain their view on the ethical responsibilities of computer scientists. Some respond like a deer in headlights, unsure what such a question could even mean. One recent faculty candidate, a data-mining researcher whose work seemed a compendium of DoD funded projects for socially reprehensible aims, admitted that she felt no social responsibility. “I am a body without a soul,” she earnestly explained. It was sincere — and creepy.
Rogaway is the creepy one here. It is more likely that she sensed his knee-jerk leftist disapproval, and chose not to give a political defense of her work in a job interview that is supposed to ignore such matters.

Here is his justification:
Mass surveillance has motivated the contents of this essay, but is it so serious a thing? Before the Snowden revelations, I myself didn’t really think so. Environmental problems seemed more threatening to man’s future, and my country’s endless wars seemed more deserving of moral consternation. It wasn’t until Snowden that I finally internalized that the surveillance issue was grave, was closely tied to our values and our profession, and was being quite misleadingly framed.

This essay was set in motion by the courage of Edward Snowden.
This is hard to take. What Snowden revelations tipped him over?

I doubt that any of those revelations was any great surprise. Rogaway is at the center of the cryptology community, and those issues have always been discussed a lot. His essay show a lot of desire to take a moral stand on something, but he doesn't really say anything about any specific Snowden or NSA issue.
The Russell–Einstein manifesto galvanized the peace movement. It launched the Pugwash Movement, for which Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences themselves would eventually share the Nobel Peace Prize (1995). Rotblat credits the manifesto for helping to create the conditions that gave rise to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT,1970).
Did it make the world safer? I doubt it.

The pacifist academics might feel better after announcing that they are in favor of world peace, but their Doomsday Clock is in nearly its most precarious position. Go figure. The physicists who helped build better bombs have prevented another world war. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that the threat of nuclear war kept the Cold War cold, and the military programs that brought down the Soviet empire were precisely the ones that the leftist pacifists opposed the most.
But a creeping surveillance that grows organically in the public and private sectors, that becomes increasingly comprehensive, entwined, and predictive, that becomes an instrument for assassination, political control, and the maintenance of power — well, this vision doesn’t merely seem possible, it seems to be happening before our eyes.
Yes, it is happening, and it is being led by Google, Facebook, Apple, banks, IRS, Obamacare, credit agencies, and data resellers. These are all vastly more invasive than the NSA, but Rogaway is strangely silent about them.

As explained here, the surveillance state is essential to Leftism and Leftism is essential to the surveillance state. The only way to oppose the surveillance state is to oppose Leftism.

The cypherpunks are libertarians, but most of the professors like Rogaway are leftists. There is nothing moral about his stance unless he is willing to address what Leftism is doing to the world.

No comments: