Max Levchin has decided to try and educate lawmakers on encryption. This will be a difficult task. I am glad he picked up the baton and is running with it.
The reason this topic is top of mind is the recent spate of terror attacks around the globe. There is a tension between the privacy that Silicon Valley and Rand Paul want, and the ability to pry into any byte of detail that the US government wants.
It’s easy to demonize and say, “Big brother is watching you” if you are on the side of more privacy. If you fear terror attacks, it’s pretty easy to be swayed to the other side.
Educating Washington on difficult concepts is extremely hard. I did it as a member of CME’s PAC for years. We spent a decent amount of money bringing lawmakers to Chicago and telling them how and why we did what we did. We had a team of people in Washington 24/7.
If you need a PAC, that means there is an opposing force trying to disrupt what you are doing. In Levchin’s case, I think he is a pure arbiter and isn’t trying to push an agenda.
Here is a snippet of the debate:
Tech companies and civil liberties groups like the ACLU say that creating a backdoor for law enforcement creates an entry point that could be exploited by the bad guys. Mr. Levchin falls in that camp.
“The only thing that will happen if there’s a government mandated backdoor, or cryptographic limitations, is that the good guys will have to abide and become vulnerable to the bad guys,” Mr. Levchin said. “The bad guys will not have to comply because they don’t care about the rules, and they will have strong crypto.”
If this sounds like the gun control debate, you are correct. No one in Washington has as much knowledge on the subject as someone from the tech community. A person that is constantly immersed in the topic also has subconscious knowledge that gives them gut feel. That’s hard to extract and transmit in a meaningful way to a regulator.
The good news is that 99% of the people in Washington have law degrees. They know how to ask questions to uncover things they need to know. The bad news is 99% of them start asking those questions with a confirmation bias. They bury useful information to make their case.