Washington D.C. — Today Access Now joined 195 experts, companies, and organizations in 42 countries in asking world leaders to support strong encryption and to reject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine digital security. The letter is now open to public support and is hosted at https://www.SecureTheInternet.org.
In India, the U.K, China, Kazakhstan, the U.S., and beyond, governments have passed or are considering legislation and other proposals that would undermine strong encryption. However, safety and privacy depend on secure communications tools and technologies. This letter represents the collective voice of technologists, companies, and organizations that rely on encryption.
“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. 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,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access Now.
The letter, organized by Access Now, allows organizations and individuals to declare their support for strong encryption. The letter will be delivered to world leaders who, according to press reports, are considering legislation and other steps that would undermine encryption.
“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, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
Several countries are considering proposals that would require companies to provide exceptional access to encrypted materials. This would create a “backdoor” to allow access to any encrypted file including personal conversations, medical records, and banking documents.
“Recently, a backdoor was found in Juniper — a product used by the U.S. government and others to provide remote access to employees’ work computers. Once the exploit was announced, it was discovered by hackers within seven hours. Forcing companies to build backdoors into their products puts targets on the backs of the companies and their users,” said Bruce Schneier, security technologist.
“Encryption is essential for the protection of Privacy, and Privacy is a basic condition for the Right to Freedom of Expression to exist. We cannot propose the protection of national security by given away our democratic principles because then we lose both, Security and Democracy,” said Frank La Rue, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
“All communications have been and are by nature confidential between the parties who understand the language they are communicating in: the code. Since when have we decided that ALL communications should be made eavesdroppable by non-parties? Likewise, why not compel all oral conversations to be above certain decibels?” — said Professor KS Park, Open Net
“A soon-to-be-published CIHR study by Ben Wagner and me for the World Wide Web Foundation, Boundaries of Law, found that states all over the world, of all shades, have adopted or are adopting laws mandating the introduction of secret ‘back doors’ into the global Internet and digital communications infrastructure. The USA and other Western countries started off this security-destroying arms race. They may have lit the fuse that could bring about the end of the free Internet. We must strengthen international law and Internet Governance to stop this – rather than encourage the undermining of global digital security,” stated Prof. Em. Douwe Korff, Emeritus Professor of International Law, London Metropolitan University.
“Laws to weaken encryption won’t stop terrorists or other criminals from using strong crypto, but it will make everyone else on the Internet less safe. Security, privacy, and anonymity are the essential components of freedom of speech for all people, regardless of where they live or were born, and the technology that enables these components are our keys to a safe digital future. Encryption is not a weapon; it is a shield that protects our economy, our critical infrastructure, and our society,” said Katie Moussouris, Chief Policy Officer of HackerOne.
“Encryption is what makes the Internet work — it’s why we can bank online, shop online, and share content with some people and not others. It’s that simple. Weakening encryption is a national security threat par excellence, exposing our critical infrastructure, financial markets, intellectual property, and individual data to bad actors across the globe. It’s imperative that we maintain the integrity of encryption, and don’t let ill-informed pundits and opportunistic politicians and lead us to security disaster,” said Meredith Whittaker, Founder of Simply Secure.
“A threat to digital rights anywhere is a threat to digital rights everywhere. This is becoming even more evident as we face legislative mandates in a number of countries that would serve to weaken security standards for people all around the world,” said Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Member of the Icelandic Parliament.
“Encryption is one of the strongest tools we have to protect users in an increasingly digital world. There is no panacea to eliminate crime online, but weakening security for users is a clear step in the wrong direction,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, Director of Ranking Digital Rights.