EFF in the News
“We have no idea how the terrorists in the Paris bombings and shootings (communicated), but notice that (government officials) already have the solution,” said Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who works specifically on international security and privacy issues.
“After any kind of security event, politicians believe that they must do something, and this is something and therefore it must be done.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment, but civil liberties advocates in the United States were sharply critical of the censorship requests and of Twitter's apparent willingness to comply. "In the face of terrorism, usually the first casualties are free speech and privacy, and that is extremely disappointing," said Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco-based group advocating for freedom of expression online.
"It crosses an ethical line, because you're vacuuming up the data of lots of innocent people," added Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"For a long time, computer science researchers haven't thought about the ethical aspects of their research, because their research has just been about computers," he told TechNewsWorld, "but when it starts to affect people, researchers have to start thinking about the ethical implications."
To Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wheeler's comments appeared to reference a debate over whether tech companies should be forced to give the government access even to the secret, encrypted user communications that some services build into their products.
“These heinous attacks must not be used to justify further erosion of our security, civil liberties or privacy,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “At this point, there is no confirmation that end-to-end encryption was used by the attackers, much less that the use of that encryption is what led the world’s intelligence services to fail to detect the plot before the tragedy.”
Privacy advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, reacted with concern to the developments.
“We were shocked and saddened to learn of the attacks in Paris and Beirut. But these heinous attacks must not be used to justify further erosion of our security, civil liberties or privacy,” EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn told Defense One in an email. “At this point there is no confirmation that end-to-end encryption was used by the attackers, much less that the use of that encryption is what led the world’s intelligence services to fail to detect the plot before the tragedy. What we do know is that strong encryption is crucial to allow political organizers, government officials, and ordinary people around the world to protect their security, privacy and safety from criminals and terrorists alike. Any ‘backdoor’ into our communications will inevitably (and perhaps primarily) be used for illegal and repressive purposes rather than lawful ones.”
It's become far more common since Edward Snowden revealed the government was siphoning data from American tech companies. "In the U.S. we are not fans of the government looking over everyone's shoulder all the time and essentially that's what encryption prevents," Electronic Frontier Foundation spokesperson Jeremy Gillula said.
But for years, the intelligence community has argued for a back door, a way for the NSA to get in and flush the bad guys out. "It's got to stop and we have to have the mechanism to fight back," Feinstein said.
Tech companies have begun siding with privacy advocates. "A back door doesn't know who's accessing it. If you put a master key in there, you know for sure that is going to be the target of every hacker on the planet," Gillula said.
U.S. officials exploit Paris attack to vilify whistleblowers, the plight of the transgender community in the nation's capital and how consumers are letting companies spy on them. Alyona cuts through the spin in the Free Speech Zone.
Guest: Amul Kalia, Intake Coordinator, Electronic Frontier Foundation
“There’s no way of preventing a terrorist from installing a Russian [encryption] app or a Brasilian app,” notes Nate Cardozo, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The US or UK government could mandate [backdoors], but Open Whisper Systems is not going to put in a backdoor in their product period and neither is PGP. So as soon as a terrorist is sophisticated enough to know how to install that, any backdoor is going to be defeated.”
Nate Cardozo, a lawyer on the civil liberties team at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, went even further, suggesting that the back-door push by the intelligence and law enforcement community is less about terrorism and more about collecting as much information as possible. He accused the CIA's Brennan of political opportunism — using the Paris tragedy to push for an existing agenda.
"We are in a golden age of surveillance. Right now it is easier for the CIA, the NSA, the FBI to surveil anyone, anytime, anywhere than it ever has been, even despite encryption," Cardozo tells All Tech.
"If we learned anything from the Snowden revelations, it's that the NSA and intelligence agencies around the world, including in France, are not suffering from the lack of information, rather they're suffering from the exact opposite. They have so much data that they're collecting, they have trouble filtering the signal from the noise."