Encrypted service providers are urging lawmakers to back away from a controversial plan that critics say would undercut effective data protection measures.
ProtonMail, Threema, Tresorit and Tutanota — all European companies that offer some form of encrypted services — issued a joint statement this week declaring that a resolution the European Council adopted on Dec. 14 is ill-advised. That measure calls for “security through encryption and security despite encryption,” which technologists have interpreted as a threat to end-to-end encryption. In recent months governments around the world, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan, have been reigniting conversations about law enforcement officials’ interest in bypassing encryption, as they have sporadically done for years.
In a letter that will be sent to council members on Thursday, the authors write that the council’s stated goal of endorsing encryption, and the council’s argument that law enforcement authorities must rely on accessing electronic evidence “despite encryption,” contradict one another. The advancement of legislation that forces technology companies to guarantee police investigators a way to intercept user messages, for instance, repeatedly has been scrutinized by technology leaders who argue there is no way to stop such a tool from being abused.
The resolution “will threaten the basic rights of millions of Europeans and undermine a global shift towards adopting end-to-end encryption,” say the companies, which offer users either encrypted email, file-sharing or messaging.
“[E]ncryption is an absolute, data is either encrypted or it isn’t, users have privacy or they don’t,” the letter, which was shared with CyberScoop in advance, states. “The desire to give law enforcement more tools to fight crime is obviously understandable. But the proposals are the digital equivalent of giving law enforcement a key to every citizens’ home and might begin a slippery slope towards greater violations of personal privacy.”