The governments of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia called on Facebook to make its users less secure by halting its rollout of end-to-end encryption and enabling a backdoor for government access. This joint letter was accompanied by the announcement that the U.S. and U.K. governments, as part of the implementation of the United States’ Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), signed a bilateral agreement to streamline cross-border data sharing by law enforcement. These governments are clearly leveraging scare tactics in a concerted effort to weaken communications security globally and build in government surveillance.
“Strong encryption and end-to-end security are bedrock technologies that keep information safe online. These technologies protect billions of communications every day, from the sensitive correspondence of victims of domestic violence to businesses’ financial records to our private medical information,” said CDT Senior Technologist Hannah Quay-de la Vallee. “Creating a law that would mandate weaker and less secure technology is like mandating crumbling sidewalks to prevent criminals from escaping. It’s ridiculous, it won’t work, and it puts us all at far greater risk of serious injury.”
The joint letter to Facebook, paired with the U.S. and U.K. data sharing agreement, should set off red flags for citizens in both countries who care about their governments monitoring their communications and distributing their personal information to foreign law enforcement agencies. As details about the agreement emerge, CDT will actively monitor for any language that would mandate the weakening of encryption, such as the requirement to add backdoors into critical communications tools.