At a recent meeting in Stockholm, representatives of law enforcement and judicial authorities from the USA and the EU called for access to unencrypted communication data to be integrated directly into programs such as messenger services. They want to counter the principle of “data protection through technology” (“privacy by design”) with the counterpart “lawful access by design”. A bad idea, the Global Encryption Coalition is now defending itself against this new turn in the ongoing Crypto Wars: “This development is a worrying repetition of previous attempts to influence public opinion against encryption and jeopardizes the security of billions of people’s private data People.”
“Fatal campaign” against secure network
The general public benefits – mostly unknowingly – from encryption several times a day, points out the steering committee of the association with over 330 members, which includes the Internet Society, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and Mozilla. This is the case, for example, when visiting websites via HTTPS, using mobile phones or making electronic payments. It was an “enormous amount of work” to make encryption ubiquitous. This represents the “heart of a trustworthy Internet, which enables both economic advantages and the protection of human rights”.
The planned campaign against a secure network and secure data could be “fatal worldwide”, especially in view of “imprudent” legislative initiatives such as chat control in the EU or Great Britain’s online safety bill of a similar nature, the association warns. The commitment to protecting customers and other users should not be branded as “hypocrisy”, as was apparently the case at the transatlantic meeting, but as an acceptance of corporate responsibility in the name of human rights independent of individual jurisdictions. Instead of trying to undermine encryption, governments should focus on making appropriate use of the extensive powers law enforcement already has.
undermine privacy and confidentiality
With their concepts for security in the digital society, the EU and the USA are apparently prepared “deliberately to disregard international human rights standards”, criticizes the civil rights organization European Digital Rights (EDRi) together with eight partners such as the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Digitalcourage, Digitaler Gesellschaft and Statewatch in an open letter to the EU Commission and the Swedish Presidency of the Council of Ministers. “This is an unacceptable, clear intention to undermine the end-to-end encryption, privacy and confidentiality of communications essential to democratic digital societies.”
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The many years of commitment in this area show that “lawful access by design” can only lead to a “systematic weakening of encryption worldwide”. This would make all users “unsafe and vulnerable to unlawful access” to their communications. The leaked protocol “confirms our fears,” emphasizes EDRi policy chief Diego Naranjo: A renewed attack on encryption is also one of the goals of the Commission’s proposal for online surveillance for child sexual abuse. “This is extremely concerning and will impact the lives and activities of everyone who relies on encryption: human rights defenders, journalists, young people, marginalized communities and pretty much anyone who uses WhatsApp or Signal.”