The Center for Democracy & Technology joined a global coalition of civil society organisations in signing a joint letter calling on the Australian government to “reconsider draft online safety industry standards that threaten to undermine the use of end-to-end encryption, putting security and privacy of internet users at greater risk. Without safeguards that protect end-to-end encryption and privacy, the standards will leave users less safe online, contrary to their goal.”
From the letter:
The eSafety Commissioner has publicly stated that it supports privacy and security, and does not advocate building in weaknesses or back doors to undermine end-to-end encrypted services. (5) But client-side scanning fundamentally undermines encryption’s promise and principle of private and secure communications and personal file storage. We urge the Commissioner against creating standards that would force encrypted services to implement such scanning measures as they would create an unreasonable and disproportionate risk of harm to individuals and communities.
Australia is a leader in the field of online safety policy making, and this position comes with responsibility in shaping the norms and direction of international internet governance and regulation. Proceeding with the standards as drafted would signal to other countries that online safety is somehow counterposed to privacy and security, when the opposite is true.
We strongly urge the eSafety Commissioner to amend the proposed industry standards to ensure the protection of privacy and security, and urge the Australian Government to commit to the ongoing protection and strengthening of encryption, privacy and digital security.