LAS VEGAS — The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of partners urged a court to protect default encrypted messaging and children’s privacy and security in a brief filed today.

The brief by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Nevada, the EFF, Stanford Internet Observatory Research Scholar Riana Pfefferkorn, and six other organizations asks the court to reject a request by Nevada’s attorney general to stop Meta from offering end-to-end encryption by default to Facebook Messenger users under 18 in the state. The brief was also signed by Access Now, Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Fight for the Future, Internet Society, Mozilla, and Signal Messenger LLC.

Communications are safer when third parties can’t listen in on them. That’s why the EFF and others who care about privacy pushed Meta for years to make end-to-end encryption the default option in Messenger. Meta finally made the change, but Nevada wants to turn back the clock. As the brief notes, end-to-end encryption “means that even if someone intercepts the messages—whether they are a criminal, a domestic abuser, a foreign despot, or law enforcement—they will not be able to decipher or access the message.” The state of Nevada, however, bizarrely argues that young people would be better off without this protection.

“Encryption is the best tool we have for safeguarding our privacy and security online — and privacy and security are especially important for young people,” said EFF Surveillance Litigation Director Andrew Crocker. “Nevada’s argument that children need to be ‘protected’ from securely communicating isn’t just baffling; it’s dangerous.”

As explained in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the EFF and others today, encryption is one of the best ways to reclaim our privacy and security in a digital world full of cyberattacks and security breaches. It is increasingly being deployed across the internet as a way to protect users and data. For children and their families especially, encrypted communication is one of the strongest safeguards they have against malicious misuse of their private messages — a safeguard Nevada seeks to deny them.

“The European Court of Human Rights recently rejected a Russian law that would have imposed similar requirements on services that offer end-to-end message encryption – finding that it violated human rights and EU law to deny people the security and privacy that encryption provides,” said EFF’s Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “Nevada’s attempt should be similarly rejected.”

In its motion to the court, Nevada argues that it is necessary to block end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger because it can impede some criminal investigations involving children. This ignores that law enforcement can and does conduct investigations involving encrypted messages, which can be reported by users and accessed from either the sender or recipient’s devices. It also ignores law enforcement’s use of the tremendous amount of additional information about users that Meta routinely collects.

The brief notes that co-amicus Pfeffercorn recently authored a study that confirmed that Nevada does not, in fact, need to block encryption to do its investigations. The study found that “content-oblivious” investigation methods are “considered more useful than monitoring the contents of users’ communications when it comes to detecting nearly every kind of online abuse.” 

“The court should reject Nevada’s motion,” said EFF’s Crocker. “Making children more vulnerable in just to make law enforcement investigators’ jobs slightly easier is an uneceesary and dangerous trade off.”

For the brief:


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