Stalemate might be the best way to describe the international debate over encryption and anonymity. The online privacy that the tech industry and civil liberty groups advocate for is the very threat to national security that state actors fight against.
Surveillance systems, both targeted and mass, may undermine the right to form an opinion, as the fear of unwilling disclosure of online activity, such as search and browsing, likely deters individuals from accessing information, particularly where such surveillance leads to repressive outcomes.”
Last week, however, a United Nations report added its opinion to the conversation:
The report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression closely evaluated submissions of information from state actors and non-governmental stakeholders alike; throughout, Special Rapporteur and author David Kaye called into question normalized government practices, as well as their underlying rationale.
The report makes several key points that the privacy-versus-security debate often overlooks:
1. Online anonymity is a fundamental right, not a force for evil. Kaye explains,
There are countless examples of governments today pushing for weak encryption standards, backdoors, key escrows, and real-name registration, all in the name of keeping the populace safe from terrorism. Kaye asks states to think more broadly:
A report from the United Nations is uniquely positioned to encourage governments to rethink their approaches to online privacy. Perhaps this is just the push that the privacy-versus-security debate needs to find some common ground.