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Amid Apple's Feud With The Government, Some Call For A Digital "Constitution"

The group plans to release a working paper at the RSA Conference on March 1.

[Photo: Flickr user Mark Sebastian]

As the feud between Apple and the government over unlocking an iPhone tied to the San Bernardino killings raises the debate over privacy versus security to a crescendo, one group of experts is seeking to tone down the rhetoric and seek a middle ground via a digital "constitution."

A coalition of security-focused tech firms, former top national security leaders, and privacy advocates plans to develop such an agreement to address privacy and security issues like those now facing Apple and the U.S. Justice Department. The group, called the Digital Equilibrium Project, announced plans Tuesday to release an initial working paper at the security-focused RSA Conference March 1 and to convene a summit of its own later this year to draft the so-called digital constitution.

"The intent of this constitution is to help guide policy creation, broker compromise and serve as the foundation for decision making around cyber security issues," the group said. "Senior executives from the Justice Department, Apple and other technology firms will be invited to participate."

The Digital Equilibrium Project's organizing members include current and former executives from security firms including Verisign, Veracode, and RSA, as well as former National Security Agency director Michael McConnell and former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. The group also includes Nuala O'Connor, the CEO of Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy group, as well as Ann Cavoukian, who is the executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University and was formerly Ontario's information and privacy commissioner.

The group says it intends to promote "productive dialogue" to help resolve issues like the current legal struggle between the Justice Department and Apple over Apple's ability and willingness to unlock iPhones potentially containing evidence of criminal activity. That battle is just one part of an ongoing dispute between tech industry leaders and security officials over law enforcement access to encrypted user data.

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