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Building Trust Encryption Strengthening the Internet

Every Day Should Be Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is an opportunity for people and organizations around the world to join forces in a series of activities and events dedicated to working towards a more secure Internet. I’m really excited to take part in the activities organized by the Brazilian hub of Safer Internet Day, where the topic of encryption in the Latin American and the Carribean region is going to be discussed in one of the panels.

It’s great to have a day dedicated to building a more secure Internet for everyone, however, the reality for most people championing digital security is that every day is safer Internet day. This is certainly the case at the Internet Society. Our global community of staff, Chapters, members, partners, and supporters are deeply committed to an open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy Internet for all. That’s why we aligned our 2020 Action Plan to focus on building a bigger and stronger Internet for everyone.

Digital security is the foundation of our connected economies and societies – and encryption is the bedrock of digital security. It protects the integrity, confidentiality, and authenticity of data and communications. And as a colleague of mine always says, “when we fail to protect data, we fail to protect people.” Some might read that with an emphasis on “people.” Others with an emphasis on “data.” But to truly champion digital security it’s also important to read between the lines: we must protect the structural elements that form the Internet ecosystem. This means protecting every product, service, or application that directly or indirectly connects people to data and communication flows: the Web, social networks and messaging apps, online banks, digital government services, e-commerce marketplaces, corporate cloud systems and so on. It is undeniable that nearly everything that touches our daily lives depends on encryption technologies.

It’s clear that businesses and consumers care about the security of their data and private communications. Encryption protocols and services, especially end-to-end encryption, have become a growing trend in the last decade.[1] The last Online Trust Audit undertaken by the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) found that the percentage of the 1000 audited sites fully encrypting their web sessions grew from 52% to 93% from 2017 to 2018. Digital security is also increasingly related to consumer purchasing decisions. A recent survey led by public policy and business innovation website InnovationAus found 40% of firms that responded say they lost sales after Australia passed a law forcing companies to weaken security to help with surveillance.

It’s increasingly common to see encrypted communications blamed as an obstacle to law enforcement, public safety, and national security. But breaking or weakening encryption isn’t the solution. While these approaches might stem from a sense of urgency and good intentions, they threaten the security of the digital ecosystem as a whole. This is especially true with widely-used, general-purpose, and off-the-shelf applications. It’s important to recognize that despite good intentions, any proposed business, policy, or regulatory “solution” that involves weakening encryption will do more harm than good, putting users at a greater risk. Intentionally weakening security can also have negative economic and political consequences which are not always easy to understand and predict.

This Safer Internet Day, let us all show the world that strong encryption is a critical component to a safer and more secure Internet for everyone.  If you’d like to participate in a Safer Internet Day event, you can find a local hub or join me in Brazil (streaming available!), where I’ll take part in an open multistakeholder dialogue with other experts discussing “Security, Privacy and Encryption.”

Learn more about encryption. Explore these resources:

Want to help make every day a Safer Internet Day? Join the global movement of people and organizations standing in support of strong encryption for everyone: become an Internet Society member today!


Footnote:
[1] https://www.cryptome.org/cpi-survey.htm; https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/02/worldwide_encry.html;
https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/1980679/growth-demand-encrypted-apps-no-cause-alarm-say-tech-experts; https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/04/19/15-tech-experts-predict-the-next-big-topics-in-encryption-and-cybersecurity/#4f433dd1134c.