U.S. Senators To Introduce Anti-Encryption Bill That Puts An End To Online Privacy

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U.S. Senators To Introduce Anti-Encryption Bill That Puts An End To Online Privacy
EARN IT Act co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., talks with reporters in the Capitol on March 3rd Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Introduced by a bipartisan group of senior Senators, the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act (an update on the EARN IT Act) could end the internet as we know it and completely undermine online encryption. While if it hadn't been for the ongoing crisis, the Act would have likely received far more coverage the truth is that it could be one of the greatest threats to online privacy internet users have ever faced.


Internet encryption currently allows for internet users to send messages online without fear that they will be read by anyone other than those that they are intended for. While the bill itself does not mention encryption and claims to be creating a safer online environment for all, it will undermine encryption tools both for malign and non-malign internet users.


The Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act means that technology companies will now have to earn section 230 protections rather than having them by default. Section 230 means that no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. In effect, this means that internet platforms can't be held responsible or liable for what users and visitors post. For instance, I can sue a person if they defame me on Twitter, but I can't sue Twitter itself. This Act removes that protection from Twitter.


Therefore, firms must introduce 'best-practices' to stop inflammatory material appearing on their platform. By definition, firms then have to open up encryption on messages otherwise, they can end up being sued for something that occurred on their platform that they would not normally be aware of.


The Act would also allow the U.S. government's Attorney General to decide on what these 'best practices' are and would result in platforms such as Facebook strongly curtailing freedom of speech on their platforms out of fear of being sued. As the Attorney General could require platforms hand over communications by platform users, platforms will then, have to remove encryption for all users in order to access these communications.


The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn who are proposing the bill says that it would:


"Bring an end to warrant-proof encryption in devices, platforms, and systems."


They claim that the Act is needed because:


"Terrorists and criminals routinely use technology, whether smartphones, apps, or other means, to coordinate and communicate their daily activities … Tech companies' increasing reliance on encryption has turned their platforms into a new, lawless playground of criminal activity."


Meanwhile, Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of surveillance and cybersecurity at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, has called the bill:


"A full-frontal nuclear assault on encryption in the United States … This bill is the encryption backdoor mandate we've been dreading was coming, but that nobody, during the past six years of the renewed crypto wars, had previously dared to introduce. Well, these three senators finally went there."


It is greatly worried by privacy campaigners and civil rights groups that the ongoing pandemic will see the bill passed without proper attention and that huge numbers of legal freedoms that people have found online, such as posting their political viewpoints or ideas, will now come under threat – and that the political views of internet users may be logged and stored by the U.S. government. It certainly makes uneasy reading for anyone who believes in liberty.

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Thinking Humanity: U.S. Senators To Introduce Anti-Encryption Bill That Puts An End To Online Privacy
U.S. Senators To Introduce Anti-Encryption Bill That Puts An End To Online Privacy
Introduced by a bipartisan group of senior Senators the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act (an update on the EARN IT Act) could end the internet as we know it, and completely undermine online encryption. While if it hadn't been for the ongoing crisis the Act would have likely received far more coverage the truth is that it could be one of the greatest threats to online privacy internet users have ever faced. Internet encryption currently allows for internet users to send messages online without fear that they will be read by anyone other than those that they are intended for. While the bill itself does not mention encryption and claims to be creating a safer online environment for all, it will by definition undermine encryption tools both for malign and non-malign internet users.
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