UN supports encryption, opposes backdoors

News by SC Staff

 A UN report says that encryption and anonymisation tools are necessary to protect human rights to free expression, and that: "National laws should recognise that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. ….States should avoid all measures that weaken the security that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows."

Instead it says: "States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression….States should promote strong encryption and anonymity"

The UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights already protects individuals' right to privacy, freedom of opinion, expression, and right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas.

But the report by UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur David Kaye, based on questionnaire responses from 16 States, opinions of 30 non-government stakeholders, and statements by experts, suggest that proposals by countries (such as the US and UK) to implement backdoors breaks this obligation. Kaye described the report to The Intercept as, “the first attempt to create a legal framework for digital security.”

Kaye added that he sees a transition towards an “encrypted Internet,” with encryption built in to websites, email providers, and other communication providers by default. He says governments should only be allowed to decrypt communications on a “targeted, case-by-case basis” when approved by a court, subject to domestic and international law.


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