U.S. legislation – “EARN IT Act” – will be introduced in the coming weeks that could hurt technology companies’ ability to offer end-to-end encryption, Reuters reports, citing “two sources with knowledge of the matter.”
Proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the bill claims to fight the distribution of child sexual abuse material by making technology companies liable for state prosecution and civil lawsuits. It does so by threatening a key immunity the companies have under federal law called Section 230 which currently shields certain online platforms from being treated as the publisher or speaker of information they publish, and largely protects them from liability involving content posted by users.
The bill threatens this key immunity unless companies comply with a set of “best practices,” which will be determined by a 15-member commission led by the Attorney General… The sources said the U.S. tech industry fears these “best practices” will be used to condemn end-to-end encryption – a technology for privacy and security that scrambles messages so that they can be deciphered only by the sender and intended recipient. Federal law enforcement agencies have complained that such encryption hinders their investigations.
Online platforms are exempted from letting law enforcement access their encrypted networks. The proposed legislation provides a workaround to bypass that, the sources said.
Titled “The Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019,” or the “EARN IT Act,” the bill is sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal.
During a Senate Judiciary hearing on encryption in December, a bipartisan group of senators warned tech companies that they must design their products’ encryption to comply with court orders. Senator Graham issued a warning to Facebook and Apple: “This time next year, if we haven’t found a way that you can live with, we will impose our will on you.”
MacDailyNews Take: This is an encryption attack masquerading as a “child protection” bill designed to threaten Apple’s and other tech companies’ use of encryption and a liability exemption that protects the companies. As we’ve written before, when pressed, government spooks usually resort to using children as the vector to get what they want: the elimination of personal privacy and the ability to snoop on anyone’s iPhone.
In January 2018, we asked, “How soon until the government spooks play the Think of the Children™ card in their misguided quest to shred the Constitution?” Looks like we have our answer: About two years.
Think of The Children™. Whenever you hear that line of horseshit, look for ulterior motives. Fear mongers: Those who use of fear, scare tactics, and emotional appeals in attempts to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. — MacDailyNews, September 30, 2014
The criminals will always be able to use end-to-end encryption. Measures like this hurt only law-abiding citizens by making it possible to invade privacy, conduct mass surveillance, and God only know what else. The criminals will have their privacy while law-abiding citizens will have their privacy stripped away.
This is not about this phone. This is about the future. And so I do see it as a precedent that should not be done in this country or in any country. This is about civil liberties and is about people’s abilities to protect themselves. If we take encryption away… the only people that would be affected are the good people, not the bad people. Apple doesn’t own encryption. Encryption is readily available in every country in the world, as a matter of fact, the U.S. government sponsors and funds encryption in many cases. And so, if we limit it in some way, the people that we’ll hurt are the good people, not the bad people; they will find it anyway. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, February 2016
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759