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Debating the Constitution: Technology and Privacy

by robertrosenkranz on October 11, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz presents Debating the Constitution: Technology and Privacy.

These days, there is little that occurs without leaving some type of electronic trail. Cameras appear in buildings and on street corners, catching every move of passersby, and emails, text messages and other forms of electronic communication carry critical messages, and in some cases, details about wrongdoings, threats and crimes.

Most Americans enjoy a sense of safety and privacy when communicating via their home computers and personal cellphones, but what happens when the information contained in such communications has the capacity to cause harm to the general public? Should tech companies have to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data as a matter of public safety and national security, or would doing so infringe upon the very freedoms upon which this nation is based?

Yes, tech companies should be required to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data.

Arguing in favor of the motion are Stewart Baker, an attorney and former assistant secretary for policy with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Arguments Made in Favor of the Motion

Those in favor of the motion argued that the 4th Amendment technically already authorizes law enforcement access to private data by allowing judges to grant search warrants to authorities when warranted. They noted that encrypting such data would essentially undermine the provisions of the Constitution and equated encrypted data to a “safe that can’t be cracked,” noting that it could hinder the nation’s ability to identify and prosecute criminals, exonerate those falsely accused and protect itself from potential attacks. Supporters also noted that accessing devices could allow law enforcement to gain information that would not be available through any other method and referenced the All Writs Act, which gives courts the ability to “issue orders to compel people to do things within the limits of the law.”

No, tech companies should not be required to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data.

Arguing against the motion are Michael Chertoff, the executive chairman of the Chertoff Group, and the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Catherine Crump, the acting director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Arguments Made Against the Motion

Those against the motion argued that supporters’ interpretation of the All Writs Act was a violation of the 4th Amendment, noting that allowing law enforcement to access customer data would set a dangerous precedent that could have critical repercussions when it comes to consumer privacy. Opponents also argued that creating loopholes and compromising encryption to allow law enforcement to access encrypted data would also make it more vulnerable to hackers and more significant security threats and therefore prove counterproductive. Furthermore, they noted, law enforcement accessing customer data on cellphones and similar devices would violate Americans’ free expression and 1st Amendment rights.

Pre-Debate Poll Results

Prior to the debate, 26 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion, while 47 percent were against it and 27 percent were undecided.

Post-Debate Poll Results

After the debate, 36 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion, while 58 percent were against it and 6 percent were undecided.



robertrosenkranzDebating the Constitution: Technology and Privacy

Recommended Reading- One Nation Undecided by Peter Schuck

by robertrosenkranz on October 9, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz’s  One Nation Undecided by Peter Schuck

In an age of “fake news,” radical opinions and seemingly never-ending controversies, Peter Schuck’s “One Nation Undecided” does what so many have struggled to do as of late – give careful thought and consideration to some of the nation’s most polarizing issues, and respectfully analyze the opinions and arguments of both sides in doing so.

Page by page, Schuck delves into five of today’s most controversial topics, exploring immigration, campaign finance, poverty, affirmative action, and gay marriage and transgender rights while explaining key concepts and providing thoughtful commentary along the way. Rather than take a strong stance on most of these hot-button issues, however, he instead takes an often-unbiased perspective, encouraging readers not so much to take one side over the other, but to think through the arguments of both sides rationally and precisely while abandoning hot tempers and strong emotions in doing so.

That being said, he does make some of his personal opinions clear throughout the work, among them his skepticism about affirmative action, his desire to combat poverty through increasing tax credits and his belief that America needs to reform its immigration policies to help meet the needs of the modern economy. Even when voicing his own opinions, however, Schuck’s main objective remains obvious, and it involves encouraging others to carefully contemplate issues and form their own opinions thoughtfully, respectfully and analytically.

Schuck divides his book into sections, so readers can peruse his thoughts and musings on each of the five topics independently or out of order from one another, working their way through subjects of particular interest to them without having to cover all five to get the full story. Throughout his overview of all five key issues, his primary argument remains the same: Americans should rely on reason and clear-thinking when analyzing critical issues, regardless of which side of the fight they ultimately choose to support.


robertrosenkranzRecommended Reading- One Nation Undecided by Peter Schuck

A Summer Challenge: Radical Rethinking

by robertrosenkranz on October 6, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz presents A Summer Challenge- Radical Rethinking

Just how strong are our personal convictions, and are we willing to change them, or to at least give genuine, thoughtful consideration to the other side?

New York Times Columnist David Leonhardt sits down with our host John Donvan to discuss this and his recent column, where he challenges members of society to pick a divisive issue, grapple with it, and then consider changing their minds.


For starters, he notes, the current state of the presidential administration offers evidence of an increasingly polarized society, adding that, more and more, Americans seem to group themselves geographically alongside others who share most of the same fundamental beliefs. Furthermore, he contends, while political fights are healthy and often productive, at some point, society seems to have slipped into “unhealthy” territory, where people have become too divided upon party lines, too divided in terms of where they live and too unwilling to stay humble and open when it comes to admitting what they might be wrong about.

Take a closer look at the issue of abortion, for example. People who are pro-life are often admittedly strong in their beliefs, but they are also often hesitant to truly, thoughtfully consider the other perspective. The same can be said for those who are staunchly pro-choice. Is it because there is a certain amount of embarrassment to be had in admitting you were wrong about a serious issue? Leonhardt doesn’t think so. On the contrary, he gives considerable credit to people who exercise flexibility within their thinking, and notes that he may have an easier time doing so than the average person because of his background in journalism, where maintaining objectivity is the name of the game.

Leonhardt also explores just where strong convictions come from in the first place in his discussion of climate change. He references an instance where a large group of adults are asked if they believe climate change is a real, manmade phenomenon, and how most of the people in the room raise their hands. The same group is then questioned about whether they have ever read books on the topic of climate change, and most of those hands went down.

No matter which way one sides, his underlying message contends, it’s a very freeing thing to realize that one has the capacity to change his or her mind – and to do so not based on preconceived notions, but on facts.

robertrosenkranzA Summer Challenge: Radical Rethinking

Long Live Walmart

by robertrosenkranz on June 20, 2017

Long Live Walmart Debate introduction by Robert Rosenkranz 

Few American businesses are as polarizing to the nation’s people as Walmart, which many believe is pushing out smaller businesses and dominating the marketplace while paying its workers low wages and relying on cheaply made foreign goods, as opposed to those manufactured on American soil. With the brick-and-mortar retail industry in its entirety now facing diminishing sales as Americans increasingly shop and spend online, however, some believe Walmart provides critical job opportunities to low-skilled workers while encouraging commerce and growth in rural or under-served areas.

robertrosenkranzLong Live Walmart

Video Games Will Make Us Smarter

by robertrosenkranz on June 16, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz introduces the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Video Games Will Make Us Smarter

Video games have long received blame in the media for promoting violence and desensitizing players to it, but in recent years, many video game creators have begun developing games that focus on critical social issues facing mankind, such as climate change, poverty and so on. The video game industry continues to experience considerable growth, but is this growth benefiting players and making them more in-tune with the modern social plights of humankind, or is this growth contributing to antisocial behavior among players while making them increasingly numb to extreme violence?

robertrosenkranzVideo Games Will Make Us Smarter