Midway assessment - Regulating Cryptography: Rationale and Limits

PhD candidate Peter Alexander Earls Davis at the Department of Private Law will present his PhD project: "Regulating Cryptography: Rationale and Limits".

PhD candidate Peter Alexander Earls Davis


Professor Angela Daly University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Leader of the assessment

Professor John Asland, Departement of Private Law


Professor Lee A. Bygrave and Professor Tobias Mahler, Department of Private Law

For outline and draft text, contact Peter Alexander Earls Davis.


Modern, widely available encryption techniques are extremely effective at protecting the confidentiality and integrity of information. This fact has undeniably brought many positive benefits for society at large, however, has also been leveraged by bad actors to grant them secrecy or anonymity. This perceived double-edged sword has led many governments to explore and implement regulatory solutions towards mitigating the undesirable effects that ubiquitous, strong encryption bring. However, doing so in an effective manner is a notoriously difficult task. Various rights and interests are potentially affected in any encryption-related regulatory endeavour. There is no silver-bullet solution that remedies the problems of encryption whilst retaining its benefits and minimising undesirable side-effects, and governments are limited, to varying degrees, in their responses to encryption-related issues by a diverse range of factors.

This thesis is aimed at exploring these limits on ‘Western’ governments in coming to effective regulatory solutions to problems posed by encryption. It does so by: (i) outlining the pertinent political, technological, legal and economic issues that intersect the encryption debate; (ii) examining the judicially enforceable rights that constrain governments’ ability to regulate encryption; and (iii) analysing the interaction between states and private technology companies which have become the key actors in the encryption debate through a regulatory theory lens. It also applies the insights gleaned from these analyses to the potential future development of the issue area.

Published July 2, 2020 9:19 AM - Last modified Aug. 11, 2020 10:43 AM