Waddell: You touch on a few recommendations for academics who are looking to be more involved, to get people to care—morally—about their role in blocking mass surveillance. Should morality be a criterion of hiring?
Rogaway: I think that when you’re hiring faculty members at a public university, that it’s fair game to ask them what their social views are, their views of social responsibility of scientists. I think you have to be careful in how you do this that you’re not applying some kind of political test, that the candidates’ political opinions match up with your own.
But part of the purpose of the public university, land-grant universities like my own, is to serve the public welfare. And if a faculty candidate doesn’t believe that that’s a part of the purpose of his or her work at all, then I think that that’s not appropriate.
But again, I think one has to be quite careful in how this is applied, that it doesn’t become some sort of political test. There’s a wide range of ideologies that are perfectly consistent with being a scientist or a faculty member. But one kind of ideology that to me is not consistent is to say, “What I do has no impact, and I have no responsibilities.” Because that’s just not true.
Waddell: What about the issue of funding? The fact that so much of the money for the work that academics do comes from the parts of the government that are involved in surveillance—is there a way around that?
Rogaway: Faculty members can decide what funding they will or will not seek. But it’s very rare for a faculty member to say, “I’m not going to accept DoD funding,” for example. I think that viewpoint should be more common, actually. That some people should say, “I won’t accept from this agency, I don’t agree with their institutional goals.”
Waddell: Is that a practical proposition?
Rogaway: It’s perfectly practical, in the sense that you can be a successful faculty member without accepting DoD funding. You won’t have as many students, you won’t be able to support as large a research group. And in some areas of computer science, and I’m sure in some areas more broadly, the vast majority of funding may be from the DoD.
I remember speaking to a computer architect, asking if there was any person in computer architecture he was aware of that wouldn’t take DoD money, and he said there was not. And he didn’t really believe that such a person could exist and be successful in the field, as there is no access to adequate resources just from the [National Science Foundation], say.
In my own area, cryptography, I think one can do fine living just on NSF money. But you won’t have a group of 10 students, or something.
Waddell: The paper and the talk you gave are pretty critical of your colleagues in the field. How have they taken the criticism since you presented the paper?