Today, Fight for the Future is releasing a list of more than 60 human rights and privacy organizations that have signed an open letter calling on companies with online messaging platforms and tools to implement default end-to-end encrypted messaging immediately. The endorsing organizations include the National Network of Abortion Funds, Amnesty International USA, Greenpeace USA, UltraViolet, United We Dream, GLAAD, and the Women’s March.
The campaign, Make DMs Safe, highlights the urgent need for default end-to-end encryption in a post-Roe world, where unencrypted communication tools put abortion seekers in direct danger of attacks from law enforcement and right wing extremists. It also highlights how this technology keeps everyone safe – including Black communities, Muslims, immigrants, and journalists that have been targets of state surveillance historically and would benefit immensely from safe communication platforms.
“From the directors of government security agencies, to human rights defenders, to Big Tech companies themselves, the support for end-to-end encrypted messaging is vast. Communities targeted by police surveillance have been drawing attention to the life-or-death implications of this privacy feature for years, and now it’s more urgent than ever for companies to finally implement end-to-end encryption as the default across direct messaging platforms,” said Leila Nashashibi, Campaigner at Fight for the Future. “Alongside more than 50 other human rights and privacy-focused organizations, today we’re sending a message to companies everywhere: until you make end-to-end encryption the default and ensure that messages between your users are truly private, you play ally to anti-rights crackdowns and enable mass-scale digital surveillance. Make our DMs safe now.”
“Social media and Big Tech apps may have started out as innocuous tools to keep us in touch with family and friends around the world, but quickly evolved into critical communications infrastructure, allowing us to do everything from publicly organizing community protests to privately helping family in restrictive states access abortion care. As more and more states restrict and ban access to abortion, the stakes for protecting people’s access to legal health care couldn’t be higher. Big Tech companies’ bottom lines have benefited greatly from our needs to connect, support each other, and challenge harmful policy – especially in times of crisis – and we expect they will take steps to responsibly protect their users’ safety,” said Tara Romano, Executive Director of Pro-Choice North Carolina.
“Does anyone really believe that Big Tech companies, who thrive on our most private data to line their own pockets, will protect our conversations from the prying eyes of police and government intelligence? As we just found out, Facebook will doxx people seeking abortions to police. In a land of disintegrating rights and expanding surveillance, end-to-end encryption isn’t just a ‘feature request’ – it’s an absolute necessity,” said Sean O’Brien, Yale Privacy Lab.
“More and more, people around the world — especially youth — count on direct messaging to connect, share information, and find support. Privacy is critical for everyone, including the LGBTQ community. Today we are calling on platforms to step up and ensure that messages sent privately are just that: private,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD.
“Tech companies have a responsibility to ensure that their products can deliver while protecting the people who use them. The criminalization of abortion put an emphasis on the risk of unencrypted messages, but everyone deserves to have their sensitive information protected through the best security measures available and that means end-to-end encryption by default. It’s time we kept private data private,” said Nicole Gill, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Accountable Tech.
“The issue of data privacy has never been more urgent. We have seen the harmful impact of private messaging used to surveil, harass, and even to prosecute communities and people seeking access to basic reproductive and gender affirming healthcare. It is essential to ensure that messaging platforms are private and secure, and that individuals seeking to exercise their basic human right can do so free from prosecution,” said Kia Guarino, Executive Director of Pro-Choice Washington.
End-to-end encryption prevents anyone other than the sender and recipient from accessing shared messages and files. Without it, company employees, hackers, and law enforcement are able to access “private” conversations. The Make DMs Safe page provides a report on the current end-to-end encryption policies of six companies: Meta, Twitter, Google, Apple, Slack, and Discord. As part of the campaign launch, Fight for the Future also sent letters to each of these companies requesting a meeting to discuss the shortcomings in their policies as well as specific actions they must take to meet the campaign’s demands. The letters are available on the campaign page.
The the full list of organizations that have signed on to the open letter:
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
Africa Media and Information Technology Initiative (AfriMITI)
Amnesty International USA
Carolina Abortion Fund
Center for Digital Resilience
comun.al, Digital Resilience Lab
Defending Rights & Dissent
Derechos Digitales · América Latina
Digital Defense Fund
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Erotic Service Provider Legal Education Research Project (ESPLERP)
Internet Sans Frontieres
Internet Society – Brazil Chapter
Internet Society Catalan Chapter ISOC-CAT
Jewish Voice for Peace
Lucy Parsons Labs
Muslim Justice League
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Institute for Reproductive Health
National Network of Abortion Funds
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Physicians for Reproductive Health
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, Inc.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Pro-Choice North Carolina
Ranking Digital Rights
Reframe Health and Justice
Restore The Fourth
Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative
Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
Tech for Good Asia
The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center
The Signals Network
The Tech Oversight Project
The Tor Project
United We Dream
WA People’s Privacy
Win Without War