The Crypto-Wars Myth: The Reality of State Access to Encrypted Communications

Cian Murphy

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This article draws on four state studies to address a myth of the contemporary debate on internet communications: that, in the face of an internet ‘going dark’, states face a choice between absolute privacy and unfettered access to data. The legal powers which already exist suggest that certain states have a range of possible means of access to encrypted data. The lack of awareness over these powers may be because, despite public debate, democratic oversight remains deficient, while judiciaries and other institutions play useful but limited roles. The cross-territorial nature of the internet presents regulatory challenges and opportunities for reform—albeit in an environment in which the myth of Crypto-Wars is far from useful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalCommon Law World Review
Issue number3-4
Early online date9 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Dec 2020


  • encryption, surveillance, Crypto-Wars, lawful access, terrorism


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