Organized by Tutanota, Fight for the Future, and Tor, 40+ leading pro-privacy organizations are speaking out on World Press Freedom Day, calling on governments to protect encryption, freedom of expression, press freedom and other essential human rights.
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, a global network of over 40 organizations including Tor, Tutanota, Fight for the Future, Center for Democracy & Technology, Mozilla, Global Partners Digital, Proton, OpenMedia, Internet Society and the Document Foundation are demanding that democratic governments around the world commit to protecting encryption, privacy, and ensure a free and open Internet.
The call comes in an open letter that states “Encryption is a critical tool for user privacy, data security, safety online, press freedom, self determination, and free expression. Without encryption, users’ data and communications can be accessed by law enforcement and malicious actors. Government attacks on encrypted services threaten privacy and puts users at risk. This might seem like a distant problem primarily faced in authoritarian countries but the threat is just as real and knocking at the doors of democratic nations.”
This effort emerges amid threats to Internet users’ rights and freedoms posed by harmful legislation such as the Online Safety Bill in the UK, the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act and EARN IT Act in the USA, India’s Directions 20(3)/2022 – CERT-In, the Surveillance Legislation Amendment Act in Australia as well as the proposed rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse in the EU. These are alarming examples of democratic governments following in the path of authoritarian governments like Russia and Iran, who actively limit their citizens’ access to encrypted services thereby weakening their human rights.
The letter pushes back against regulatory and legislative actions that undermine rights and freedoms such as privacy, security, access to knowledge, freedom of expression, self-determination, and freedom of the press. Signatories call on governments to: (a) ensure that encryption is not being undermined via overreaching legislative initiatives (b) ensure that technologies providing secure, encrypted services are not being blocked or throttled (c) revisit any bills, laws and policies that legitimize undermining encryption or blocking access to services offering encrypted communication.
This open letter is sent to policymakers in the US, the EU, Canada, the UK, Australia and India today. On World Press Freedom Day, we want to stress the fact that encryption is needed to uphold our free democracies—not just for all citizens, but particularly for journalists and whistleblowers.
Read the full letter and view the signatories at: https://www.fightforthefuture.org/news/2023-05-03-open-letter-protect-our-rights-to-privacy-free-expression-and-press-freedom/.
PLEASE NOTE: signatories may be added until EOD Tuesday
The letter is still collecting signatures from interested organizations at https://airtable.com/shrOLz1jqthJZzhOA.
“It is really worrying what is going on in some of the greatest democracies in the world. Many policymakers believe they can have a ‘magical key’ to access encrypted communication – completely ignoring technical facts: Encryption is either securing everyone or it is broken for everyone.” said Matthias Pfau, co-founder of Tutanota. “If policymakers want a ‘magical key’, they will ultimately destroy the security of all citizens, including journalists and whistleblowers who depend on encryption to expose abuses of power or other grievances in society. That’s why we at Tutanota will never weaken our encryption. If governments outlaw encryption, they need to block access to our encrypted email service, just like Russia and Iran are already doing.”
“Encryption is a necessary tool for safeguarding our digital rights and the principles of a free and open society. By upholding encryption within messaging apps, websites, file sharing, and other online services, we empower journalists to report on important issues while protecting their sources without fear of surveillance and retribution,” said Isabela Fernandes, Executive Director, The Tor Project. “The Tor network is underpinned by encryption, and we have partnered with many news outlets and social media sites to launch Onion Sites that bypass censorship and allow people to safely and anonymously access, share and publish information.”
“The need for privacy has never been more urgent. Encryption is a shield that protects everyone but most especially the most targeted and vulnerable communities. This ranges from journalists and activists to LGBTQ+ folks, abortion seekers, ethnic and other minorities. Why take away the tools needed to help protect them at a time they need these tools the most?” said Eseohe Ojo, Campaigner at Fight for the Future “Policymakers understand the importance of privacy when it comes to opening someone else’s physical mail, accessing their banking or other private information but limit such protections online. Encrypted services protect and empower individuals. It is about time governments recognize and safeguards access to these tools.”