Wednesday 26 October 2016

SumTips: 10 Facts on Encryption and Human Rights from Amnesty International

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Amnesty International recently released a report ranking 11 technology companies on encryption and human rights.

The results reinforce what we already know:
  • Encryption helps protect people’s human rights online.
  • Encryption stops cybercriminals from stealing our personal information, and helps prevent unlawful government surveillance of our communications.
  • There is virtual consensus among expert technologists and cryptographers that it is impossible to put in place a system of special access that could only be used by the intended state authorities. If a backdoor exists, others–criminals, malicious hackers, or other governments–will also be able to access it.

…and remind us that there is still work to be done:
  • Only three of the companies assessed–Apple, LINE, Viber Media–apply end-to-end encryption as a default to all of their IM services. Of these, none are fully transparent about the system of encryption they are using.
  • In five cases Amnesty International found a gap between policy and practice: for example, Microsoft has a clear stated commitment to human rights, but is not applying any form of end-to-end encryption on its Skype service. 
  • All of the companies, with the exception of Tencent, have stated publicly that they will not grant government requests to backdoor the encryption on their messaging services.
  • Apple is a powerful advocate for privacy and security and is applying a strong form of encryption to its services. However, Amnesty International found that the company could do more to tackle these issues from a human rights perspective and inform its users about the threats to their human rights and the way that the company is responding.
  • Facebook deploys end-to-end decryption by default on WhatsApp, but not on Facebook Messenger.
  • Telegram Messenger, Kakao Talk and Google Allo do not warn users when using weaker encryption.
  • Snapchat and BlackBerry Messenger offer no commitment to freedom of expression and make no policy recognition of online threats to human rights.

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