​Security experts, activists call on governments to reject ‘backdoor’ laws

Nearly 200 organisations and individuals have signed an open letter demanding governments reject laws that undermine encryption or mandate backdoors.

Among the 195 signatories include leading cryptographers, security experts, and online privacy groups from 40 different nations, from Australia to Zimbabwe, as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye.

Rights group Access Now on Monday launched securetheinternet.org, which hosts the letter calling on politicians not to ban or weaken encryption but support it and avoid laws that undermine the security of individuals and companies.

Access now said it was launching a unified civilian campaign in response to governments across the world, including in China, the US, the UK and Australia, that are considering or implementing laws that would undermine strong encryption.

“Governments should not ban or otherwise limit user access to encryption in any form or otherwise prohibit the implementation or use of encryption by grade or type,” the open letter states.

“Users should have the option to use – and companies the option to provide – the strongest encryption available, including end-to-end encryption, without fear that governments will compel access to the content, metadata, or encryption keys without due process and respect for human rights,” the letter continues.

The campaign comes amid growing opposition to the UK’s draft Investigatory Powers bill, which may allow the nation's Secretary of State to make regulations that force a provider to remove encryption whether or not it is in the UK.

UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, on Monday warned the broad discretion the bill allows for could lead to “blanket restrictions on encryption that affected massive numbers of persons”.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo last week spelled out their concerns about the law in a joint submission to the the UK government. The firms asked it to state that nothing in its draft bill would require a company to “weaken or defeat its security measures”.

Apple in December outlined similar objections to the UK government, arguing the law would “hurt law-abiding citizens in its effort to combat the few bad actors who have a variety of ways to carry out their attacks”. It added that being forced to introduce backdoors would endanger all its customers.

The Dutch government announced last week that it would not force technology firms to had over protected data, stating what many security experts have said before: that giving access to law enforcement would make personal and company systems vulnerable to criminal, terrorist and foreign surveillance.

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