A “backdoor” to allow access to any encrypted file — including personal conversations, medical and banking records — will be created if laws proposed in countries around the world are passed, according to the Electronic Frontiers Association (EFA).
The EFA has joined the Australian Privacy Foundation, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and hundreds of other organisations from over 53 countries to protest the changes, which would require companies to provide exceptional access to encrypted materials.
“Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age,” said David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion & Expression.
The protest is addressed to world leaders — including those in France, India, the UK, China and the US where the new laws are proposed — asking them to support strong encryption and to reject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine digital security.
In an open letter, the EFA stated:
Governments should not ban or otherwise limit user access to encryption in any form or otherwise prohibit the implementation or use of encryption by grade or type;
Governments should not mandate the design or implementation of “backdoors” or vulnerabilities into tools, technologies, or services;
Governments should not require that tools, technologies, or services are designed or developed to allow for third-party access to unencrypted data or encryption keys;
Governments should not seek to weaken or undermine encryption standards or intentionally influence the establishment of encryption standards except to promote a higher level of information security. No government should mandate insecure encryption algorithms, standards, tools, or technologies; and
Governments should not, either by private or public agreement, compel or pressure an entity to engage in activity that is inconsistent with the above tenets.
“The internet belongs to the world’s people, not its governments. We refuse to let this precious resource become nationalized and broken by any nation,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access Now.
“This letter seeks to unify the voices of global internet users by demanding the protection of tools necessary to the expression of our human rights.”
EFA executive Jon Lawrence says “Calls to undermine encryption in the name of ‘national security’ are fundamentally misguided and dangerous.”
“Encryption is a necessary and critical tool enabling individual privacy, a free media, online commerce and the operations of organisations of all types, including of course government agencies.”
“Undermining encryption therefore represents a serious threat to national security in its own right, as well as threatening basic human rights and the enormous economic and social benefits that the digital revolution has brought for people across the globe.”