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The War on Encryption

The War on Encryption

Last week, I described how Russia’s attempt to ban Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, had devolved into a game of whack-a-mole, one that had little effect on the app itself but knocked many other Russian websites offline. Apparently undaunted by Russia’s failure (and the Moscow protests that followed), Iran has launched its own ban on the secure messenger, which it has accused of fomenting armed uprising and social unrest.


Telegram is even more popular in Iran than in Russia. Although it’s too early to be sure, media reports suggest a similar farce may already be playing out there.

In Iran’s case, the brouhaha reflects the ongoing political tussle between reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani and more hardline voices within the Islamic Republic. Rouhani says that apps like Telegram create economic opportunities for Iranians, while hardliners see the firm’s growing ambitions — not just in secure messaging, but in news, anonymous web browsing, and online payments — as a threat. For now, hardliners may be winning the argument, not that it appears to be doing them much good.

There’s a broader power struggle going on here, between governments and technologies that undermine their authority. Russia and Iran aren’t the only countries that fear encrypted apps. A group of US senators has reportedly been laying the groundwork for a new bill that would give law enforcement access to encrypted communications, to prevent criminals and terrorists from “going dark” — something that the UK, Germany, and France have also advocated.

The big picture: Forced to make a tradeoff between individual privacy and collective security, many governments will feel political pressure to choose the latter. That’s an issue not just for Russia and Iran, but for democracies, too.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

"If [the election] is very close and it ends up in the courts, that kind of protracted situation I think will lead many Americans to believe that it was an unfair election." Rick Hasen, election law expert and author of Election Meltdown, lays out some of the worst-case scenarios for Election Day, ranging from unprecedented voter suppression to dirty tricks by foreign actors. The conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. The episode begins airing nationally in the US on public television this Friday, October 30. Check local listings.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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On Wednesday, November 4 at 11a EST, we're gathering a panel to discuss "What Just Happened" with the US election. GZERO Media's Ian Bremmer, Tony Maciulis and Alex Kliment will be joined by The Washington Post's Karen Attiah and Eurasia Group's Jon Lieber. Watch live at: gzeromedia.com/gzerolive.

Decision 2020: What Just Happened? Wednesday, November 4, 11a EST/8a PST

Panelists:

Bookmark this link to watch live: gzeromedia.com/gzerolive

Add to your calendar:

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director for the United States at the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on a special US election edition of US Politics In 60 Seconds:

So, we're about five days out from the election right now.

And the story of this week has been the remarkably steady polling lead for Joe Biden that he's had for months now. The other big story is the turnout, massive amounts of turnout. 100% of the 2016 vote already cast in Texas. 60% nationwide votes already cast. We are headed for record shattering turnout, could be around 155 million Americans voting.

On election night, what are we watching for?

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