Axel Arnbak – A New Governance Model for Communications Security?

CITP Luncheon Series

Date: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Location: 306 Sherrerd Hall
Streaming Live: https://www.youtube.com/user/citpprinceton
Food and discussion begins at 12:30 pm. Everyone invited.

Augmenting the security of communications has become a top priority for policymakers, but as the engineering saying goes: “if you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to do it right.” Flawed policies and conceptual ambiguities seem to be the rule, rather than the exception these days. Networked communications pose complex conceptual questions for regulators, while money and power permeate the policy arena as networked communications have become central in economic, social and political life. Are we in need of a new governance model for communications security?

This talk outlines some of the challenges of regulating communications security today, and suggests an alternative approach for its conceptualization and legal governance. This ‘value chain approach’ offers a 9-step framework for granular, functional communications security conceptualizations, tailored to specific communications settings. It is informed by multilateral security engineering methods SQUARE and MSRA and earlier case studies into money and power in networked communications. In particular, an empirical case study into HTTPS governance – the first study to date that maps the market for HTTPS certificates – and on cloud surveillance by intelligence agencies, which after Snowdens revelations dominate the news around the globe. The cases illustrate that many communications policy issues are not that technical after all.

This value chain approach is still very much ‘under construction’ and at CITP, the aim is to further develop the model and to operationalize it in more communications settings. Thus, policymakers are offered a tool that helps them to decide what they want, and how to do it right.


Axel Arnbak is a cybersecurity and information law scholar at the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Information Law (IViR). At CITP, he will work on his doctoral project that aims to develop a new conceptual model for communications security governance. In addition, Axel will expand on his earlier work on intelligence agency surveillance and conduct a case study into the routing security market and its incentives for communications security. In the 2013/14 academic year, he will also be a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. For his thesis on telecommunications data retention, he received the national Internet Thesis Award (2009) and the general University of Amsterdam Thesis Award (2010). In 2009, Axel was part of the core team that re-founded the Dutch digital rights organization Bits of Freedom.