Encryption as a Security Technology. Notes on the German Debate on encryption, Uncertainty and Risk

Linda Monsees


This article contributes to the emerging literature on digital encryption as a political issue by focusing on the way in which debates about encryption are embedded in a broader security discourse. Drawing on empirical material from Germany, this article shows how debates on encryption bring its ambiguous nature to the fore. Encryption is seen as both a threat and a source of protection, it thus becomes clear that technology only acquires its political meaning in discourse. Furthermore, I show that security is discussed in terms of uncertainty, risks and complexity. The article concludes by arguing that this prevailing idea of security as risk leads to security measures that attempt to deal with complexity by involving a variety of actors, making multi-stakeholder approaches as a solution more plausible.


Encryption, Germany, Security, Surveillance,

Full Text:



Amoore L. (2013). The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security beyond Probability. Duke University Press: Durham and London.

Amoore L. (2014). Security and the Claim to Privacy. International Political Sociology, vol. 8 (1), pp. 108–12.

Aradau C., Van Munster R. (2007). Governing Terrorism Through Risk: Taking Precautions, (Un) Knowing the Future. European Journal of International Relations, vol. 13 (1), pp. 89–115.

Balzacq T. (2015). Legitimacy and the “Logic” of Security. In T. Balzacq (Ed.). Contesting Security: Strategies and Logics. PRIO New Security Studies. Routledge: New York, pp. 1–9.

Barry A. (2012). Political Situations: Knowledge Controversies in Transnational Governance. Critical Policy Studies, vol. 6 (3), pp. 324–36.

Bauman, Z., Bigo, D., Esteves P., Guild E., Jabri V., Lyon D., Walker R.B.J. (2014). After Snowden: Rethinking the Impact of Surveillance. International Political Sociology, vol. 8 (2), pp. 121–44.

Beck U. (1986). Risikogesellschaft: Auf Dem Weg in Eine Andere Moderne. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main.

Bigo D. (2012). Security, Surveillance and Democracy. In K. Ball, K. Haggerty, D. Lyon (Eds.). Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. Routledge: London and New York.

BND. (2018). Bundesnachrichtendienst – Cyber-Sicherheit. http://www.bnd.bund.de/DE/Themen/Lagebeitraege/Cyber-Sicherheit/Cyber-Sicherheit_node.html;jsessionid=DEED-619592FF2B9156149BAEA6843424.2_cid377, 01.12.2018.

Buzan B., Hansen L. (2009). The Evolution of International Security Studies. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Callon M. (1984). Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay. The Sociological Review, vol. 32 (1_suppl), pp. 196–233.

Carr M. (2016). Public–Private Partnerships in National Cyber-security Strategies. International Affairs, vol. 92 (1), pp. 43–62.

Denning D. (1996). The Future of Cryptography. In Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias. MIT Press: Cambridge, pp. 85–101.

Diffie W., Landau S. (1998). Privacy on the Line the Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption. MIT Press: Cambridge.

Dunn Cavelty M. (2007). Cyber-Security and Threat Politics: US Efforts to Secure the Information Age. CSS Studies in Security and International Relations. Routledge: New York.

DuPont Q. (2015). Opinion: It’s Time to Rethink Polarizing Encryption Debate. Christian Science Monitor, vol. 2 December 2015. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Passcode/Passcode-Voices/2015/1202/Opinion-It-s-time-to-rethink-polarizing-encryption-debate, 1.12.2018.

Elbe S. (2008). Risking Lives: AIDS, Security and Three Concepts of Risk. Security Dialogue, vol. 39 (2–3), pp. 177–98.

Fachgruppe für Angewandte Kryptographie in der Gesellschaft für Informatik. (2013). Kryptographie schützt Grundrechte- gerade im Zeitalter der massenhaften Ausforschung des Datenverkehrs im Internet, Pressemitteilung vom 16.09.2013, http://fgkrypto.gi.de/presse/nsa-ueber wachung.html, 15.11.2018.

Fairclough N. (1995). Media Discourse. Arnold: London.

Fairclough N. (2013). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. Taylor and Francis: Hoboken.

Foucault M. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge, Pantheon Books: New York.

Froomkin M. (1995). The Metaphor Is the Key: Cryptography, The Clipper Chip, and the Constitution. 24.06.1995. http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.805/articles/froomkin-metaphor/text.html, 1.12.2018.

Gaycken S. (2014). Öffentliches Fachgespräch des Ausschusses Digitale Agenda des Deutschen Bundestages zum Thema ‚IT-Sicherherheit‘, Schriftliche Stellungnahme von Dr. Sandro Gaycken, http://www.bundestag.de/bundestag/ausschuesse18/a23/anhoerungen/-/281524, 1.12.2018.

Gaufman E. (2017). Security Threats and Public Perception: Digital Russia and the Ukraine Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan: London.

Gürses S., Kundnani A., Van Hoboken J. (2016). Crypto and Empire: The Contradictions of Counter-Surveillance Advocacy. Media, Culture & Society, vol. 38 (4), p.. 576–90.

Hajer M. (1995). The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process. Clarendon Press: Oxford.

Härting N. (2014). Schriftliche Stellungnahme zum Fragenkatalog für das öffentliche Fachgespräch des Ausschusses Digitale Agenda des Deutschen Bundestages zum Thema IT-Sicherheit am Mittwoch, 7.05.2014, http://www.bundestag.de/bundestag/ausschuesse18/a23/anhoerungen/-/281524, 1.12.2018.

Hofmann J. (2016). Multi-Stakeholderism in Internet Governance: Putting a Fiction into Practice. Journal of Cyber Policy, vol. 1 (1), pp. 29–49.

Hosein G. (2017). Digital Citizenship and Surveillance| Compromising Over Technology, Security, and Privacy — Commentary. International Journal of Communication; Vol 11, http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/6825.

Huysmans J. (2011). What’s in an Act? On Security Speech Acts and Little Security Nothings. Security Dialogue, vol. 42 (4–5), pp. 371–83.

Huysmans J. (2014). Security Unbound: Enacting Democratic Limits. Critical Issues in Global Politics. Routledge: New York.

Jacobsen K. (2015). Experimentation in Humanitarian Locations: UNHCR and Biometric Registration of Afghan Refugees. Security Dialogue, vol. 46 (2), pp. 144–64.

Kaspersky E. (2012). AUSSENANSICHT; Angriff aus dem Netz; Hoch entwickelte Computerviren zeigen: Viele Länderbereiten sich auf den Cyber-Krieg vor. Die Attacken können jeden treffen, der einen Internetanschluss hat. Süddeutsche Zeitung 12.09.2012, retrieved via factiva 12.06.2014.

Keller R. (2007). Diskursforschung: eine Einführung für SozialwissenschaftlerInnen. 3., aktualisierte Aufl. Qualitative Sozialforschung 14. VS, Verl. für Sozialwiss: Wiesbaden.

Kessler O., Daase C. (2008). From Insecurity to Uncertainty: Risk and the Paradox of Security Politics. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, vol. 33 (2), pp. 211–32.

Kurz C., Frank R. (2013). Snowdens Maildienst gibt auf. Die neuen Krypto-Kriege. In Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09.08.2013 (retrieved via Factiva 12.06.2014).

Latour B. (1999). ‘On Recalling ANT’. In J. Law, J. Hassard (Eds.). Actor Network Theory and After. Wiley: New York, pp. 15–25.

Leander A. (2013). Technological Agency in the Co-Constitution of Legal Expertise and the US Drone Program. Leiden Journal of International Law, vol. 26 (04), pp. 811–31.

Link J. (2006). Diskursanalyse Unter Besonderer Berücksichtigung von Interdiskurs Und Kollektivsymb lik, R. Keller, A. Hirseland, W. Schneider, W. Viehöver (Eds.). Handbuch Sozialwissenschaftliche Diskursanalyse, vol. 1, pp. 433–58.

Link J. (2013). Diskurs, Interdiskurs, Kollektivsymbolik. Zeitschrift Für Diskursforschung, vol. 1 (1), pp. 7–23.

Lyon D. (2003). ‘Surveillance as Social Sorting, Computer Codes and Mobile Bodies’. In D. Lyon (Ed.). Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk, and Digital Discrimination. Routledge: New York, pp. 13–30.

Mandau M. (2014). Die abhörsichere Verschlüsselung. In CHIP, 01.02.2014 (retrieved via Factiva 12.06.2014.

de Maizière T. (2015). Rede des Bundesinnenmisters beim Forum International de la Cybersécurité, 20.01.2015, www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Reden/DE/2015/01/internationales-forum-fuer-cybersicherheit.html, 1.12.2018.

Meier S., Wedl J. (2014). Von Der Medienvergessenheit Der Diskursanalyse. In J. Angermuller, M. Nonhoff, E. Herschinger, F. Macgilchrist, M. Reisigl, J. Wedl, D. Wrana, A. Ziem. Diskursforschung: Ein Interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Transcript: Bielefeld, pp. 411–35.

Meinrath S., Vitka S. (2014). Crypto War II. Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 31 (2), pp. 123–28.

Mol A. (2010). Actor-Network Theory: Sensitive Terms and Enduring Tensions. Kölner Zeitschrift Für Soziologie Und Sozialpsychologie. Sonderheft, vol. 50, pp. 253–69.

Monsees L. (2017). International Security and the Politicisation of Technology. Studying the International Political Sociology of Encryption. PhD-thesis, University of Bremen.

Neumann L. (2014). Effektive IT-Sicherheit fördern Stellungnahme zur 7. Sitzung des Ausschusses Digitale Agenda des Deutschen Bundestages, http://www.bundestag.de/bundestag/ausschuesse18/a23/anhoerungen/-/281524, 1.12.2018.

Nordstrom C. (1997). A Different Kind of War Story. The Ethnography of Political Violence. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia.

Nossek H., Adoni H., Nimrod G. (2015). Media Audiences| Is Print Really Dying? The State of Print Media Use in Europe. International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, p. 21.

Rasmussen M. (2001). Reflexive Security: NATO and International Risk Society. Millennium-Journal of International Studies, vol. 30 (2), pp. 285–309.

Ries U. (2014). Die richtige Krypto-Software – Verschlüsselung ist Vertrauenssache. In Computerwoche, 02.06.2014, (retrieved via factiva 12.06.2014).

Salter M. (2008). Imagining Numbers: Risk, Quantification, and Aviation Security. Security Dialogue, vol. 39 (2–3), pp. 243–66.

Schneider S. (2010). ‘Empirische Legitimationsforschung’. Prekäre Legitimitäten. Rechtfertigung von Herrschaft in Der Postnationalen Konstellation, Frankfurt Am Main, pp. 45–67.

Schneier B. (2013). The NSA Is Breaking Most Encryption on the Internet. Schneier on Security (blog). 9.05.2013, https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/the_nsa_is_brea.html, 1.12.2018.

Schouten P. (2014). Security as Controversy: Reassembling Security at Amsterdam Airport. Security Dialogue, vol. 45 (1), pp. 23–42.

Schulze M. (2017). Clipper Meets Apple vs. FBI—A Comparison of the Cryptography Discourses from 1993 and 2016. Media and Communication, vol. 5 (1), pp. 54–62.

Schröder T. (2014). Stellungnahme von Thorsten Schröder zum Fragenkatalog für das öffetnliche Fachgespräch des Ausschusses Digtale Agenda des Deutschen Bundestages zum Thema‚ IT-Sicherherheit‘ am Mittwoch, 7.05.2014, http://www.bundestag.de/bundestag/ausschuesse18/a23/anhoerungen/-/281524, 1.12.2018.

Steiger S., Schünemann W., Dimmroth K. (2017). Outrage without Consequences? Post-Snowden Discourses and Governmental Practice in Germany. Media and Communication, vol. 5 (1), pp. 7–16.

Stevens D. (Daniel Peter), Vaughan-Williams N. (2017). Everyday Security Threats: Perceptions, Experiences, and Consequences. Manchester University Press: Manchester.

Vollkorn. (2015). CCC fordert Ausstieg aus unverschlüsselter Kommunikation. Press release of the CCC, 22.01..2015, https://www.ccc.de/de/updates/2015/ccc-fordert-ausstieg-aus-unverschlusselter-kommunikation, 1.12.2018.

Walters W. (2014). Drone Strikes, Dingpolitik and beyond: Furthering the Debate on Materiality and Security. Security Dialogue, vol. 45 (2), pp. 101–18.

Waltz K. (Ed.), (2010). Theory of International Politics. Waveland Press: Long Grove.

Wessler H., Peters B., Brüggemann M., Kleinen-von Königslöw K., Sifft S. (2008). Transnationalization of Public Spheres. Transformations of the State. Palgrave Macmillan: New York..

Wibben A. (Ed.), (2016). Researching War: Feminist Methods, Ethics and Politics. Routledge: New York.

Winner L. (1980). Do Artifacts Have Politics?, Daedalus, vol. 109 (1), pp. 121–36.

Wodak R. (1989). Language, Power and Ideology: Studies in Political Discourse. John Benjamins Publishing: Amsterdam.

Yanow D., Schwartz-Shea P. (Eds.), (2006). Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn. Sharpe: Amonk, NY.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/ms.2018.2.125-139
Data publikacji: 2019-06-26 08:58:27
Data złożenia artykułu: 2018-10-09 14:15:47


Total abstract view - 1046
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 0



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Linda Monsees

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.