(This forum response opinion editorial on was first published in the Boston Review on May 15, 2019.)

Read the original forum article here.

Riana Pfefferkorn

The key term that recurs throughout Henry Farrell’s and Bruce Schneier’s essay is “trust.” That is no surprise, as the concept unites both authors’ bodies of work: Schneier, a security expert, and Farrell, a political scientist, have each written books about it. Security enables trust, and trust enables a functioning democracy.

Small wonder, then, that these two have teamed up to propose a starting point for improving democracy by conceptualizing it as an information system in which distrust is a security problem. By and large, I find this a useful way to frame the issue. However, their essay underplays the value of a longstanding U.S. tradition—anonymous speech—that the authors recognize as creating vectors for attacks on trust. At the same time, it overlooks some known vulnerabilities that anti-democratic elements have already exploited to undermine institutional trust.

(Continue reading the article on Boston Review’s page here.)

Riana Pfefferkorn is the Associate Director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. Her work, made possible through funding from the Stanford Cyber Initiative, focuses on investigating and analyzing the U.S. government’s policy and practices for forcing decryption and/or influencing crypto-related design of online platforms and services, devices, and products, both via technical means and through the courts.