EFF in the News
Privacy advocates and experts who support unbreakable encryption argue that investigators have other tools at their disposal and warn that building a special key to unlock encryption just for law enforcement comes with risks of abuse, both in the U.S. and abroad, that are too great.
“You can’t make a back door in a house that only law enforcement can enter,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney for Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends civil liberties in the digital world.
Cindy Cohn was the guest on KQED Forum: In response to last week's Paris attacks, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein condemned tech companies for not doing more to aid law enforcement in fighting terrorism. Feinstein and other intelligence officials believe that last week's attackers used encryption technology, which makes communications difficult, if not impossible, to track. But experts disagree on encryption's ability to thwart tracking efforts and President Obama has yet to require companies to provide law enforcement with a backdoor around encoding technology. Meanwhile, tech companies such as Apple say that weakening encryption technology would compromise customers' security. We'll discuss the complex questions of encryption, privacy and security.
Mr. Lohmann said the number of legitimate videos affected by takedown notices was small. And big entertainment companies are not always the most aggressive in demanding that the videos be removed. But the problem is growing, said Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.
“It’s become incredibly easy to take down legitimate content, and we need a counterbalance to that situation, so we welcome YouTube’s announcement,” Ms. McSherry said.
To try and combat that problem, or at least make it more obvious, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) has launched a new site called Onlinecensorship.org, in partnership with a company called Visualizing Impact, which is funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation.
Jillian York, the EFF’s director for international freedom of expression, co-founded the site with Visualizing Impact CEO Ramzi Jaber, whose company does social design and data visualization. York said in an interview before the site’s launch that the site is an extension of her work supporting free speech around the world, and has been in the works since the 2011 Arab Spring rebellion in Egypt.
Yet, the prevalence of these trackers raises consumer questions. Because trackers are invisible, many people are unaware of them and have no inkling of how to dodge them. “It’s definitely a privacy concern,” said Cooper Quintin, a technologist and privacy advocate for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There’s no mechanism for people to opt out.”
"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."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation also weighed in, issuing a statement. "These heinous attacks must not be used to justify further erosion of our security, civil liberties or privacy," wrote EFF executive director Cindy Cohn. The privacy advocacy organization points out that there has been no public confirmation that the terrorists used end-to-end encryption, nor that it was the encryption of communications that caused the intelligence agencies to fail to detect the plot.
"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 'back door' into our communications will inevitably (and perhaps primarily) be used for illegal and repressive purposes rather than lawful ones," wrote Cohn.
OnlineCensorship.org was founded by Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for internet freedom, and Ramzi Jaber of Visualizing Impact, a firm that designs visual tools for presenting data. The new censorship tracker is designed to collect as much information as possible about what content gets taken down from social media.
Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the idea of deploying multiple-key encryption is not new, and was proposed earlier this spring by the director of the NSA.
“The problem is, even if you split up the key, it is still essentially creating a backdoor in a crypto system,” Gillula said. “The system will still be insecure. It will still create an opening for hackers.”