83 organisations send strong message to Five Eyes

30 June 2016

Today InternetNZ - alongside 83 organisations and individuals from Five Eyes countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States - signed onto an open letter asking government officials to defend strong encryption.

The letter comes off the back of a "Five Eyes" ministerial meeting in Canada earlier this week, where officials discussed encryption technologies and potential law changes surrounding encryption.

InternetNZ Deputy Chief Executive Andrew Cushen says any decisions the Five Eyes group make about encryption has the potential to significantly change the way we use the Internet and could affect the safety of all Internet users and businesses across the world.

"This encryption debate is playing out all over the world. Some people realise the privacy and security benefits encryption technologies allow and others only see encryption as a tool allowing bad people to do bad things.

"The fact is that encryption protects everyone's security and privacy and is a vital part of how the Internet works for us all.

"That also means it's used by criminals and terrorists. This creates public safety risks and is the reason these debates are happening by officials across the world," says Cushen.

InternetNZ strongly believes that encryption is a vital part of increasing our security online. We also believe there are ways the concerns of law enforcement and national security agencies may be addressed.

However, InternetNZ is worried that these Five Eyes meetings are to consider and develop law changes that may reduce the effectiveness of encryption. These laws may seek to force "backdoors" to be built into encryption so officials are able to decrypt information in certain instances.

Thomas Beagle, Chairperson for the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, says "we increasingly rely on a secure Internet for work, personal relationships, commerce, and politics. While we support justifiable lawful intercept with appropriate oversight, we don't think we should be seriously weakening the security of the Internet to achieve it. Attempts to weaken encryption will do more damage to our society and our freedom than the possible threats it's meant to be protecting us from."

In the joint letter, 83 groups and individuals from the Five Eyes countries wrote "we call on you to respect the right to use and develop strong encryption." Signatories also urged the members of the ministerial meeting to commit to allowing public participation in any future discussions.

"In New Zealand, we need to start a discussion about encryption and gather data and evidence in order to make decisions and keep New Zealanders safe both online and in general," says Cushen.

To kick-start this discussion in New Zealand, InternetNZ has written two papers about encryption. The first explains what encryption is, how it is used across the Internet, how it is used for good and how it is used for bad. The second sets out what InternetNZ thinks New Zealand needs to do in order to front foot this issue and not get left behind.


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