Search Mailing List Archives

Limit search to: Subject & Body Subject Author
Sort by: Reverse Sort
Limit to: All This Week Last Week This Month Last Month
Select Date Range     through    

[liberationtech] "What happened to the crypto dream?" talk by Arvind Narayanan

Steve Weis steveweis at
Sun Oct 14 13:10:32 PDT 2012

Arvind Narayanan recently gave a talk at Princeton on crypto and its
(lack of) impact on privacy in practice. I haven't watched it through
yet, but it looks interesting.


In the ‘80s and ‘90s, cryptography was envisioned by many pioneers and
hobbyists as a tool not just for mundane uses like securing e-commerce
transactions, but as a defense against the coming age of surveillance,
and indeed as a weapon of freedom that would upset the balance of
power between people and governments/corporations, ushering in a new
era of unprecedented personal privacy and autonomy.

In retrospect, crypto appears to have done surprisingly little for
privacy. In addition to the grand crypto-anarchist vision, there is
also a long and ongoing line of academic work on privacy-preserving
versions of different types of computations, promising more modest
privacy enhancements in various specific domains. In my opinion, these
have also seen less real-world deployment than anticipated.

This phenomenon deserves examination, elucidation and explanation,
which I will aim to do in this talk. Rejecting the notion that the
holdup is due to computational inefficiency, I will present several
economic, cognitive and sociotechnical reasons why the cryptographic
approach to privacy is fraught with difficulties. While these problems
appear fundamental, I will discuss possible ways to make some

Arvind Narayanan (Ph.D. 2009) is an Assistant Professor in Computer
Science and CITP at Princeton. He studies information privacy and
security and has a side-interest in tech policy. His research has
shown that data anonymization is broken in fundamental ways, for which
he jointly received the 2008 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award. He
is one of the researchers behind the “Do Not Track” proposal. You can
follow Narayanan on Twitter at @random_walker.

More information about the liberationtech mailing list