Government Policy about Cryptography: a Debate and Papers

In the first semester, I had divided the class into four groups and had presentations by all the groups during one class meeting. Reports were written and displayed on the web. I thought that the oral and written experience were quite good and wanted to repeat it. The spring semester's class was larger. The same immediacy and compactness could not be sustained. As I write elsewhere, I believe I should not have tried the same thing with seven groups. The reports seemed repetitive and too long to me. Perhaps I did not monitor them as well as I should have. I thought that student involvement decreased. I did not adequately advise students on how this group work should go (not everyone would need to speak, for example!), and did not adequately supervise the activity in class. I also combined this assignment with the complex RSA assignment, perhaps not a good idea. I chose the groups, trying for diversity of majors and interests, as far as I was able to discern. In any case, what we did is described below [PDF|PS|TeX]. The initial assignment was given out on March 5, 2000 and presentations began about three weeks later.

RSA math & policy assignments

This assignment is complex and has three parts. I've divided the class into seven groups. You should all discuss how to share the work involved. Here is a description of your group's assignment:

Part 1: Communication using RSA

Each group will have to work on communicating using the RSA algorithm. Every member of the group should have received by e-mail the private/secret key for the group. Please see the webpage rsa.html reachable through the Math 103 home page for exact information on what to do now, and get started as soon as possible.

Parts 2 & 3: Government Policy about Cryptography: a Debate and Papers

Your group will independently prepare and present for discussion an aspect of government policy about cryptography. There will be two grades: one for the oral presentation, and one for the written report. Guidelines for both are given below. The grades earned by the group will be the grades for each student in the group. The names of the people in each group are below. I've created a web page gov_policy.html reachable through the Math 103 home page with a very limited number of links on this debate's topics. These topics are rather controversial and change is rapid. Discussion and information about them exist on many web pages.

Oral presentation

  • Ten minutes to present the original position of the group.
  • Five minutes to respond to questions (rebuttal). \smallskip

    Grades for the oral presentation will be based on the original presentation, the questioning of other presentations (take notes during the presentations of the other groups!), and the response to questioning in the rebuttal time.

    Written report
    Each group will hand in a policy paper at the class meeting following the oral presentations. I'll accept a preliminary version of the policy paper earlier for analysis and comment (and corrections!), if this is desired. If you consent, I will post your report as a web page linked to the course web page.


    The RSA part of the assignment went fairly well -- every group finished their assigned task. See the RSA page for further information. Only a few groups needed to be cajoled into concluding their work.

    Links to the detailed "charge" on policy for each group, together with their written responses follow.

    The FBI group The ACLU group The Electronic Freedom group The Russia group The European Union group The Latin American group The Far East group