August 3, 2017Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MPPrime MinisterParliament HouseCANBERRA ACT 2600
Re: Encryption and Human Rights
Dear Prime Minister Turnbull,
We write to urge you to support the use of strong encryption as essential to security and human rights in the digital age. We call on you to refrain from forcing technology companies to weaken the security of their products or banning the use of end-to-end encryption.
In a July 14 press conference on national security and encryption, you discussed challenges that Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies faced in accessing encrypted data or communications, even with a lawful court order. You announced your intention to introduce legislation that will in particular impose an obligation upon device manufacturers and upon service providers to provide appropriate assistance to intelligence and law enforcement on a warranted basis, to access data in unencrypted form. While the conference released few details, you stated that the legislation would be modelled on the United Kingdoms Investigatory Powers Act and that you will seek a coordinated approach with international partners, including the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
Governments have a human rights obligation to investigate and prosecute crime and thwart terrorist attacks. However, any policy response should not do more harm than good, while also be effective at achieving its aim. Forcing companies to weaken encryption or effectively forbidding the use of end-to-end encryption fails on both counts, and would undermine human rights worldwide.
Strong encryption is the cornerstone of cybersecurity in the digital age. Todays cybercriminals are increasingly sophisticated, targeting Internet companies, credit card and identity data, critical infrastructure, and even nation-state intelligence agencies. Strong encryption built into private sector technology protects the dataand the human rights and securityof billions of Internet users worldwide against these growing security threats. You yourself have acknowledged that you use encrypted applications like Wickr and WhatsApp because traditional communication methods are not secure.
Weakening encryption for any purpose effectively weakens it for every purpose, including malicious hacking, financial fraud, and for other illicit purposes. And unfortunately, weak or partial encryption provides not just weak or partial protection, but no protection at all against sophisticated repressive regimes and capable criminals. Some companies that manufacture encrypted apps or devices do not have the ability to disclose conversations or data to law enforcement because that information is encrypted end-to-end and companies do not have the decryption keys. A requirement of assured decryptability for all data would force such companies to redesign their products without security features like end-to-end encryption or to introduce deliberate vulnerabilities, or back doors, into their software.
The overwhelming consensus of information security experts, along with some former Five Eyes intelligence officials, is that there is no technical solution that would allow specific law enforcement agencies to decrypt communications without creating vulnerabilities that would expose all users to harm. Europol has also warned that solutions that intentionally weaken technical protection mechanisms to support law enforcement will intrinsically weaken the protection against criminals as well. Determined cybercriminals and rival foreign intelligence agencies will find and exploit such back doors, for profit or abuse. This would undermine cybersecurity for all users, including billions that are under no suspicion of wrongdoing.
For human rights defenders and journalists, the harm can be even more serious. Activists and media organizations with whom we work in places like Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, and across the Middle East rely on encryption built into phones and chat applications to protect sources and victims from reprisals. In 2015, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, recognized that encryption enables the exercise of freedom of expression, privacy, and a range of other rights in the digital age. Countries like Russia, China, and Turkey need no encouragement, they are already blurring the line between human rights activism and terrorism in order to justify surveillance and repression of human rights activists.
While strong encryption may limit some existing surveillance capabilities, weakening such security features will only increase the vulnerability of billions of ordinary people to cybercrime, identify theft, and malicious hacking. Such harm would be broadly disproportionate to any gains in law enforcement capabilities that undermining encryption would achieve.
It is also unlikely that limiting strong encryption in Australiaor even in all Five Eyes countries would prevent bad actors from using it. As a recent global survey of encryption products confirms, terrorists and criminals could easily shift to the many available foreign alternatives that would not be subject to Australian law.
Technology companies face an escalating digital arms race to secure their software and devices against cybercriminals, and encryption is a key part of their arsenal. Instead of hindering efforts to protect ordinary users, we urge your government to invest in modernizing investigation techniques and increasing resources and training in tools already at their disposal, consistent with human rights requirements. For example, any limitations encryption poses to police capabilities are greatly offset by the explosion of new kinds of investigatory material enabled by the digital world, including location information and vast stores of metadata that are not encrypted. And encrypted data can often be accessed in unencrypted form through cloud-based backups or by directly accessing it on devices with hacking or forensic tools. Of course, these alternative approaches should also be necessary and proportionate to legitimate security goals, regulated in public law, and subject to strict safeguards to ensure respect for privacy and other rights.
Australias approach to encryption will be emulated by other countries facing similar challenges. Your government can demonstrate true leadership by adapting to a world with strong encryption instead of fighting the gains the private sector has made in shoring up security and human rights in the digital age.
Elaine PearsonAustralia Director
Cynthia WongSenior Internet Researcher
Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, Attorney-General
Mr. Michael Phelan APM, Acting Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police
 See, for example, Sam Thielman, “Yahoo hack: 1bn accounts compromised by biggest data breach in history,” The Guardian, December 15, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/14/yahoo-hack-security-o… (accessed August 2, 2017); Nicole Perlroth & David Sanger, “Hacks Raise Fear Over N.S.A.s Hold on Cyberweapons,” New York Times, June 28, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/technology/ransomware-nsa-hacking-too… (accessed August 2, 2017).
 Eliza Borrello, “Malcolm Turnbull confirms he uses Wickr, WhatsApp instead of unsecure SMS technology,” ABC News, March 2, 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-03/malcolm-turnbull-uses-secret-messa… (accessed August 2, 2017).
 Nicole Perlroth, “Security Experts Oppose Government Access to Encrypted Communication,” New York Times, July 7, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/08/technology/code-specialists-oppose-us… (accessed August 2, 2017); Mike McConnell, Michael Chertoff and William Lynn, Why the fear over ubiquitous data encryption is overblown, July 28, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-need-for-ubiquitous-data-enc… (accessed August 2, 2017); John Leyden, “Former GCHQ boss backs end-to-end encryption,” The Register, July 10, 2017, https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/07/10/former_gchq_wades_into_encrypti… (accessed August 2, 2017).
 Europol and ENISA joint statement, “On lawful criminal investigation that respects 21st Century data protection,” May 20, 2016, https://www.enisa.europa.eu/publications/enisa-position-papers-and-opini… (accessed August 2, 2017).
 UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, A/HRC/29/32, May 22, 2015, http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/29/32 (accessed August 2, 2017).
 B. Schneier, K. Seidel, and S. Vijayakumar, A Worldwide Survey of Encryption Products, February 11, 2016, https://www.schneier.com/academic/archives/2016/02/a_worldwide_survey_o…. (accessed August 2, 2017).
 Orin Kerr and Bruce Schneier, Encryption Workarounds, March 20, 2017, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2938033 (accessed August 2, 2017).
- Encryption: Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Lead to Breaches - January 14th, 2019
- Encryption | Information Technology Services - December 31st, 2018
- Encryption - Investopedia - December 16th, 2018
- How to Protect Data at Rest with Amazon EC2 Instance Store ... - December 9th, 2018
- Next Generation Encryption - blogs.cisco.com - December 4th, 2018
- 3 Different Data Encryption Methods - DataShield blog - November 22nd, 2018
- Security and encryption | Documentation | Turtl - November 18th, 2018
- Encryption | General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - November 16th, 2018
- Using Encryption and Authentication Correctly (for PHP ... - November 13th, 2018
- Encryption | SANS Security Awareness - November 9th, 2018
- Types of Encryption | Office of Information Technology - November 5th, 2018
- Use Your own Encryption Keys with S3s Server-Side ... - October 29th, 2018
- What is Tokenization vs Encryption - Benefits & Uses Cases ... - October 12th, 2018
- Device Encryption | it.ucsf.edu - October 12th, 2018
- 5 Common Encryption Algorithms and the Unbreakables of the Future - September 15th, 2018
- Top 5 best encryption software tools of 2018 | TechRadar - August 26th, 2018
- New EBS Encryption for Additional Data Protection | AWS ... - August 22nd, 2018
- Best Encryption Software 2018 - Encrypt Files on Windows PCs - August 20th, 2018
- Download BestCrypt Volume Encryption 3.78.05 / 4.01.09 Beta - July 26th, 2018
- End-to-end encryption - Wikipedia - July 24th, 2018
- Download Symantec Encryption Desktop 10.4.0 Build 1100 - July 15th, 2018
- HTTPS - Wikipedia - July 10th, 2018
- AES encryption - June 20th, 2018
- Encrypt email messages - Outlook - June 20th, 2018
- Download Sophos Free Encryption 184.108.40.206 - softpedia.com - June 19th, 2018
- Does Skype use encryption? | Skype Support - June 16th, 2018
- Encryption- Computer & Information Security - Information ... - May 25th, 2018
- Enable BitLocker on USB Flash Drives to Protect Data - May 25th, 2018
- Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) - msdn.microsoft.com - April 12th, 2018
- Encryption Software Market - Global Forecast to 2022 - March 24th, 2018
- What AES Encryption Is And How It's Used To Secure File Transfers - March 24th, 2018
- Encryption vs. Cryptography - What is the Difference? - March 24th, 2018
- Energy-efficient encryption for the internet of things | MIT News - February 16th, 2018
- The Best Encryption Software - TopTenReviews - February 16th, 2018
- File-Based Encryption | Android Open Source Project - February 7th, 2018
- Beyond Encryption | Secure Enterprise email using existing ... - February 1st, 2018
- Azure Search enterprise security: Data encryption and user ... - January 26th, 2018
- Skype finally getting end-to-end encryption | Ars Technica - January 13th, 2018
- FBI chief says phone encryption is a 'major public safety issue' - January 13th, 2018
- Encryption and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) - December 27th, 2017
- Key (cryptography) - Wikipedia - December 21st, 2017
- security - Fundamental difference between Hashing and ... - December 15th, 2017
- What Is Encryption? | Surveillance Self-Defense - December 4th, 2017
- Comodo Disk Encryption Download - softpedia.com - December 1st, 2017
- Encryption - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - November 24th, 2017
- BitLocker Drive Encryption Overview - technet.microsoft.com - November 23rd, 2017
- The Encrypting File System - technet.microsoft.com - November 18th, 2017
- FBI cant break the encryption on Texas shooters smartphone - November 13th, 2017
- DOJ: Strong encryption that we dont have access to is ... - November 13th, 2017
- DOJ Fires Up New War With Apple Over Encryption - November 12th, 2017
- Security Awareness - Encryption | Office of Information ... - October 15th, 2017
- Data Encryption and Decryption (Windows) - October 14th, 2017
- Trumps DOJ tries to rebrand weakened encryption as responsible ... - October 11th, 2017
- How to encrypt (almost) anything | PCWorld - September 22nd, 2017
- Private Internet Access | VPN Encryption - September 21st, 2017
- Encryption Substitutes | Privacy | Encryption - September 21st, 2017
- Data Encryption: Hardware & Software Security: Online ... - September 21st, 2017
- How To Enable BitLocker Drive Encryption In Windows 10? - September 21st, 2017
- PGP Encryption Tool - iGolder - September 21st, 2017
- encryption - How to encrypt String in Java - Stack Overflow - September 21st, 2017
- Encryption Software Market, Size, Trends and Forecast 2020 - September 21st, 2017
- Encryption Definition - Tech Terms - September 20th, 2017
- Why You Should Be Encrypting Your Devices and How to Easily Do It - Gizmodo - September 6th, 2017
- Black Hats, White Hats, and Hard Hats The Need for Encryption in Mining and Resources - Australian Mining - September 6th, 2017
- How can enterprises secure encrypted traffic from cloud applications? - TechTarget - September 6th, 2017
- Encryption Explained - Arizona Daily Wildcat - September 6th, 2017
- News in brief: Call to link encryption to ID; Facebook maps everyone ... - Naked Security - September 2nd, 2017
- 'Independent' gov law reviewer wants users preemptively identified before they're 'allowed' to use encryption - The Register - September 2nd, 2017
- High-Dimensional Quantum Encryption Performed in Real-World ... - Futurism - September 2nd, 2017
- It's Time to Replace Your Encryption-Key Spreadsheet - Data Center Knowledge - September 2nd, 2017
- Legislation to limit smartphone encryption 'may be necessary,' deputy AG Rosenstein says - Washington Times - August 31st, 2017
- Cloud Encryption Market by Component, Service Model, Organization Size, Vertical And Region - Global Forecast to ... - Markets Insider - August 31st, 2017
- Cipher Suites: Ciphers, Algorithms and Negotiating Security Settings - Hashed Out by The SSL Store (registration) (blog) - August 31st, 2017
- Encryption in Office 365 - Office 365 - August 29th, 2017
- Need-to-Know Only: Use Encryption to Make Data Meaningless to ... - Security Intelligence (blog) - August 29th, 2017
- Four strategies to prevent data encryption from hijacking your network - Digital News Asia - August 29th, 2017
- Amber Rudd is wrong - real people do want end-to-end encryption - ITProPortal - August 29th, 2017
- Why encryption is for everyone - IFEX - August 29th, 2017
- 4D quantum encryption successful in first real-world test - New Atlas - New Atlas - August 29th, 2017
- For the First Time Ever, Quantum Communication is Demonstrated in Real-World City Conditions - Futurism - August 26th, 2017