I’ve been exploring historical American attempts at regulation of computing as part of my #FreedomToCompute effort. We have an excellent example from the Clinton era which are colloquially called the Encryption Wars.
This campaign might be instructive as we decide what kind of regulatory climate might best foster machine learning and artificial intelligence innovation globally as well as what might to the best defense protections for individuals and groups who wish to work productively with approaches like inference databases and large language models.
This overview of the pressure campaign against encryption and the ultimate triumph of strong encryption rights in Slate illustrates how we very nearly made privacy much harder to preserve in America. Note that Slate is a very liberal publication but wrote the piece in 2015. A very different era of liberal policy making.
That’s why the key takeaway from the conflict is that weakening or undermining encryption is bad for the U.S. economy, Internet security, and civil liberties—and we’d be far better off if we remembered why the Crypto Wars turned out they way they did, rather than repeating the mistakes of the pastSlate
This piece included a number of negative consequences from reducing encryption in exported products which eventually undermined our own national security interests in protecting citizen’s own privacy. A lesson we continued to learn the hard way in the middle aughts Patriot Act “war on terror” era.
It’s worth skimming a review of the era from ChatGPT.
Silicon Valley played a crucial role in lobbying for encryption during the late 1990s. Tech companies and privacy advocates, realizing the importance of secure communication, actively opposed government attempts to restrict encryption. They argued that strong encryption was essential for protecting user privacy, fostering e-commerce, and ensuring the security of digital communications.
In response to this pressure, the Clinton administration began to reevaluate its stance on encryption. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Executive Order 13026, which relaxed export restrictions on encryption products. This marked a shift towards recognizing the importance of strong encryption for both national security and the technology industry.ChatGPT synopsis