A leaked European Council survey of the views on encryption of member countries showed that Spain strongly supports banning end-to-end encryption, a measure that has been proposed to combat the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), but would end privacy for all citizens.
The proposed law would require tech platforms to scan encrypted communications, something tech experts have warned is not possible without breaking the encryption.
According to the document, which was obtained by Wired, Spain’s position in encryption is the most radical.
“Ideally, in our view, it would be desirable to legislatively prevent EU-based service providers from implementing end-to-end encryption,” representatives from Spain said.
End-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and receiver can see the content of a message. Even the owner of the platform does not have access to the content.
Of the 20 member countries represented in the survey, 15 support the banning of end-to-end encrypted communications, the report stated.
Poland suggested the introduction of measures that would allow a court to lift encryption and for parents to be allowed to decrypt the communications of their children.
“It is of utmost importance to provide clear wording in the CSA Regulation that end-to-end encryption is not a reason not to report CSA material,” Croatia’s representatives said.
Romania said: “We don’t want E2EE encryption to become a ‘safe haven’ for malicious actors…”
Those behind the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act must be hoping that third time’s a charm for this previously widely-opposed piece of legislation, that is set to be reintroduced next week.
The previous two attempts to make EARN IT into law failed amid outcry from opponents who said that while designed to protect children, the bill would fail to do that – but would still damage online privacy.
Now here’s the third, bipartisan attempt sponsored by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal to bring changes to the Communication Decency Act (CDA) Section 230.
Critics say that the amendment as envisaged by EARN IT would harm internet users by removing legal protections Section 230 gives tech companies for third party content.
The consequence would be those companies protecting themselves by engaging in (even more) censorship, and “working” with the government to this end – even more than we are aware they already do.
At the core of EARN IT is to target platforms for violations related to child sexual abuse material (CSAM) rules that exist at the federal and state level.
But allegedly, these platforms are reluctant to “moderate” i.e., censor content in a heavy-handed manner, and for that reason oppose the legislation.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, D., is facing criticism for ignoring local media members who are critical of her administration transitioning away from the traditional police scanner toward the use of an encrypted radio frequency.
A coalition of news organizations claims the new system will be inaccessible to the public and will hamper journalists’ ability to listen in real-time to warn the public about ongoing threats to safety.
Traditional police scanner transmissions have always been accessible to the public, as well as media personnel, but the new encryption method is only accessible to the police and those offered a decryption key.
“Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has refused to meet with members of the Chicago media who have voiced concern this will impact journalists’ ability to cover events as they unfold and warn the public about ongoing threats to safety,” Chicago outlet WGN9 reported.
The UK is stepping up its “war on encryption,” reports are saying, and like in any good old war, propaganda comes first to “prepare the ground.” And a new campaign is expected to launch as early as this month.
In this case, they call it publicity, with the Home Office being behind the effort whose goal is to sway public opinion in favor of undermining the privacy of the very members of that public – using their own money from public funds, to the tune of over half a million pounds.
Meanwhile the “hired gun” is ad agency M&C Saatchi. The Rolling Stone said it had a chance to review documents thanks to a Freedom of Information request, and that what it discovered were “some shockingly manipulative tactics.”
London’s controversial police boss Cressida Dick used 9/11 to attack companies like Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, and Apple for using end-to-end encryption. Her remarks came a few days after the Home Office announced it would award tech companies that would find a way to break end-to-end encryption.
In an opinion piece published in The Telegraph, Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, while commemorating 9/11, noted that encrypted messaging services make stopping terror attacks difficult, and sometimes impossible.
Apple has announced impending changes to its operating systems that include new “protections for children” features in iCloud and iMessage. If you’ve spent any time following the Crypto Wars, you know what this means: Apple is planning to build a backdoor into its data storage system and its messaging system.
Child exploitation is a serious problem, and Apple isn’t the first tech company to bend its privacy-protective stance in an attempt to combat it. But that choice will come at a high price for overall user privacy. Apple can explain at length how its technical implementation will preserve privacy and security in its proposed backdoor, but at the end of the day, even a thoroughly documented, carefully thought-out, and narrowly-scoped backdoor is still a backdoor.
To say that we are disappointed by Apple’s plans is an understatement. Apple has historically been a champion of end-to-end encryption, for all of the same reasons that EFF has articulated time and time again. Apple’s compromise on end-to-end encryption may appease government agencies in the U.S. and abroad, but it is a shocking about-face for users who have relied on the company’s leadership in privacy and security.
About a month ago, it was revealed that an encrypted phone company was actually a front for a gargantuan FBI operation called “Trojan Shield.” The company, which was really a law enforcement honeypot, sold a product called “ANOM,” an encrypted chat application installed on specific, hardened phones that the bureau was secretly distributing to track and monitor organized crime groups.
Criminals thought they were getting a secure, impenetrable communication platform but, in reality, their networks were owned by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies—the devices having been designed by the bureau in collaboration with a high-level criminal informant who had previously sold such hardened, encrypted devices to underworld networks.
Now it’s being reported by Motherboard that those phones are weirdly being resold on the secondary market, popping up on Craigslist-like forums and online retailers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation created a company that sold encrypted devices to hundreds of organized crime syndicates, resulting in 800 arrests in 16 countries, law-enforcement authorities announced today. The FBI and agencies in other countries intercepted 27 million messages over 18 months before making the arrests in recent days, and more arrests are planned.
The FBI teamed up with Australian Federal Police to target drug trafficking and money laundering. They “strategically developed and covertly operated an encrypted device company, called ANOM, which grew to service more than 12,000 encrypted devices to over 300 criminal syndicates operating in more than 100 countries, including Italian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and international drug trafficking organizations,” Europol said today.
Distribution of the devices began in October 2018. The cellphones sold by the FBI-run company were “procured on the black market” and “performed a single function hidden behind a calculator app: sending encrypted messages and photos,” The New York Times wrote today. The cellphones were “stripped of all normal functions,” with the faux calculator being the only working app. Once users entered a code, they could use the app to send messages that they thought were protected by end-to-end encryption.
“For years, organized crime figures around the globe relied on the devices to orchestrate international drug shipments, coordinate the trafficking of arms and explosives, and discuss contract killings, law enforcement officials said,” the Times wrote. “Users trusted the devices’ security so much that they often laid out their plans not in code, but in plain language.”
Unbeknownst to users, messages were routed to an FBI-owned server and decrypted with a master key controlled by the FBI.
The US and West German intelligence agencies clandestinely owned the world’s leading manufacturer of encryption devices, Swiss-based Crypto AG, enjoying throughout the Cold War direct access to closely guarded secrets of more than 120 countries, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the newspaper quoted a CIA report as saying. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the US and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.”
For decades, since World War II and well into the 21st century, Crypto was selling sophisticated equipment for coded correspondence to state clients all over the world, among them Iran, India and Pakistan, countries of Latin America and the Vatican, the report said.
According to the publication, from 1970 the CIA and the National Security Agency together with their German partners controlled nearly every aspect of the company’s operations, including “hiring decisions, designing its technology, sabotaging its algorithms and directing its sales targets.”
Before he became a household name as the accused spoiler of the 2016 election, James Comey, FBI director under President Barack Obama, was already well-known in tech circles as a crusader against strong encryption. Still smarting from Edward Snowden’s exposure of the US government’s massive and illegal domestic spying operations, Comey grabbed any microphone he could during the waning years of Obama’s tenure to warn Americans that encryption technology was putting us all at grave risk by causing law enforcement to “go dark.”
Cryptography is the art of encoding text or other data such that only those who have the secret key can read it. This data can include anything from messages and records to digital currency—but these days encryption most commonly protects account passwords and other sensitive information as it traverses the internet.
Encryption has been around for millennia and, in modern times, it is used on a daily basis by nearly every person living in a technologized society. But like any technology, it can frighten those in power when wielded by the relatively powerless. In the summer of 2015, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that encryption had suddenly inspired the FBI “to consider how criminals and terrorists might use advances in technology to their advantage.”
Sensitive to the public’s lingering outrage at the Snowden revelations, Comey turned to the usual parade of horribles in his attempts to convince Congress that encryption isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “Malicious actors can take advantage of the internet to covertly plot violent robberies, murders and kidnappings,” he warned. “Sex offenders can establish virtual communities to buy, sell and encourage the creation of new depictions of horrific sexual abuse of children.”
Comey preferred to use “horrific sexual abuse of children” and the specter of terrorism to disparage encryption technology—recall the showdown between the FBI and Apple after the perpetrators of a late-2015 massacre in San Bernardino left behind an encrypted iPhone. But the ACLU (4/1/16) quickly exposed his fraud: Researchers uncovered 63 court orders for access to encrypted devices and reported, “To the extent we know about the underlying facts, these cases predominantly arise out of investigations into drug crimes”—rather than terrorists and pedophiles.
In the wake of the January 6 mob attack on the US Capitol Building, this pattern is repeating itself again…only now corporate media are taking up the FBI’s mantle on their own behalf.
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