SecureCrypt strongly upholds the right to private conversations in both the physical and digital realms, and advocates for the use of secure and proven end-to-end encryption as the optimal technology to safeguard this fundamental right. Strong encryption enables people to communicate safely with the knowledge that nobody is listening in or tampering with their messages and/or conversations.
However, in 2023 we have witnessed an alarming surge in threats against encryption and privacy, with governments globally intensifying efforts to monitor online conversations.
SecureCrypt is a proud member of The Global Encryption Coalition; their mission is to promote and defend encryption in countries where it is under threat. SecureCrypt has signed many joint letters and calls to action against those government entities trying to weaken encryption.
SecureCrypt is working tirelessly behind the scenes on a political front, with an advocacy stance waging battle against those forces who continue to try to undermine our privacy. Our message is clear, we will not rest and will always stand up for our rights to strong, and proven encryption.
In this article, we will examine different regions globally where these threats to our privacy are most alarming, and what SecureCrypt's advocacy, along with the advocacy of our industry partners has done to help fight these threats to privacy.
A key European parliamentary committee has taken an important step to defend user privacy, including end-to-end encryption. The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has politically agreed on much-needed amendments to a proposed regulation that, in its original form, would allow for mass-scanning and client-side scanning of people’s phones and computers, private encrypted chats, text messages, and communications of any kind.
The LIBE committee has wisely listened to our advocacy and now major political groups have endorsed a compromise proposal that has language protecting end-to-end encryption. Early reports indicate the language will be a thorough protection that includes language disallowing client-side scanning, a form of bypassing encryption.
The committee's agreement of a compromise with amendments by a substantial majority marks a significant step forward in the ongoing battle to maintain the integrity of private online communications.
SecureCrypt's advocacy has garnered substantial support, with over 100 civil society groups and thousands of individuals signing a petition titled "Stop Scanning Me," demanding an end to the proposed mass scanning.
United States - EARN IT
In the United States, three Senate bills were introduced, each posing a significant risk to encryption technology. Fortunately, through collaborative efforts, the privacy community successfully thwarted the progress of these bills and remains committed to doing so in the coming year.
One of these bills, EARN IT (s. 1207) would cause providers of secure communication services to be sued or prosecuted. EARN IT grants state attorneys the authority to regulate the internet under the guise of protecting children from online exploitation. Critically, the bill could be interpreted as a means to scan user messages, photos, and files. Moreover, offering encrypted services could be used as evidence against a provider in court. The potential consequences of EARN IT include the cessation of encryption services by companies or the creation of dangerous backdoors, compromising privacy and security on a massive scale.
Despite passing through a committee vote, EARN IT has not yet reached a vote on the Senate floor. SecureCrypt alongside other concerned groups advocating for human rights and privacy, continues to vehemently oppose the bill.
United States - Cooper Davis Bill
Cooper Davis (s. 1080) seeks to address the fentanyl crisis by turning smartphones into informants for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This bill imposes significant fines on communication service providers that fail to report suspected drug sales on their platforms. The potential repercussions include widespread censorship of communications with service providers likely to err on the side of caution to avoid severe penalties. S. 1080 passed in committee but has not undergone a Senate floor vote.
Australia - Online Safety Act
The eSafety Commissioner has publicly stated that it supports privacy and security, and does not advocate building in weaknesses or back doors to undermine end-to-end encrypted services. They instead are pushing for client-side scanning, however, client-side scanning fundamentally undermines encryption’s promise and principle of private and secure communications and personal file storage. We urge the Commissioner against creating standards that would force encrypted services to implement such scanning measures as they would create an unreasonable and disproportionate risk of harm to individuals and communities.
The eSafety Commissioner has proposed two draft industry standards under the Online Safety Act. Taken together, these standards apply to a broad range of services that people use every day including email, text and instant messaging, video communications, online gaming, dating services, and online file storage. In a context in which cybersecurity risks are rising, the safety, rights, and wellbeing of individuals and communities rely on the digital security and the privacy of these services.
Today, SecureCrypt is proud to announce that together with The Global Encryption Coalition and our other industry partners, we have signed a joint letter to action directed at the Australian eSafety Commissioner.
SecureCrypt pledges to persist in opposing legislative proposals that jeopardize private communications and propel platforms toward unwarranted censorship. We attribute our success in 2023 to the collective efforts of individuals who voiced their concerns to Congress, preventing these ill-conceived proposals from becoming law.
The fight for our privacy continues...