Digital Equilibrium Project Looks to Balance Privacy, Security

Former Executive Chairman of RSA Art Coviello explains what the new effort he helped organize is all about—and why, with the FBI-Apple case dominating the news, it matters more than ever.

Digital Equilibrium Project

As the battle between privacy and security rages between Apple and the FBI, it has become apparent to many that there is a need for digital equilibrium to restore balance. That, in fact, is the goal—to understand and define the balance between privacy and security—of the new Digital Equilibrium Project, a group that is being formed by top IT executives and thought leaders to help lead the way forward for the IT industry and policy makers alike.

"I helped to organize it [Digital Equilibrium Project] with McKinsey's help with the idea that people on various sides were talking past one another, often without the facts," former Executive Chairman of RSA Art Coviello told eWEEK. "Our participants bring significant networks and resources to bear from themselves and the organizations they work with, and we're confident we have the resources to execute on the mission."

The idea of bringing together a multistakeholder group that talks about collaboration in security is not a new one, with multiple efforts announced in both the private and public sector over the past decade. In many cases, the groups are announced at an industry event such as Black Hat or the RSA Conference, which is the case with Digital Equilibrium—it will debut its foundational paper, "Balancing Security and Privacy in the Connected World," at the RSA Conference on March 1.

Coviello said that while there have been other groups announced at the RSA Conference in the past, typically those efforts are one-sided: security firms that are concerned about a piece of legislation or privacy groups battling specific government actions.

"We hope to create a groundswell of thinking—not through acrimonious and emotional debate, but through active listening and fact-based dialogue so we can we make progress before it is too late," he said.

Of particular note, Coviello emphasized that the Digital Equilibrium Project is totally multilateral, with representation from some of the best minds on all sides.

"We are not just making a demand or arguing against a position, but we have done significant work to put an actual construct in place so that the dialogue can lead to action," he said.

The actual construct is the paper that the Digital Equilibrium Project will be officially releasing next week. The group is addressing root causes, not just specific events of the day, said Coviello, adding that there is a recognition that the solution must be multilateral and represent all the necessary viewpoints—and that it must address underlying constructs such as the norms of behavior and basic questions such as the public/private nature of the Internet.

While the official "Balancing Security and Privacy in the Connected World" paper is not set to be publicly available until March 1, Coviello did provide some insight into the conclusions and recommendations of the paper.

"Our collective view is that time is running out to start this debate—we're quickly heading toward a crisis point, and we need to start acting now," he said. "Our conclusion is that only through a multilateral approach and a fact-based dialogue addressing components of the problem in parallel, creating the necessary solution frameworks, can progress be made. And time is of the essence."

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.