• CryptoHarlem founder Matt Mitchell hits out at the rise in “digital stop and frisk” of marginalized communities, and urges parents and their children to use encrypted apps
  • The Global Encryption Coalition calls for the public to ‘Make the Switch’ on Global Encryption Day to strong encrypted services and defend their right to privacy and security
  • Currently, encryption is under threat by governments around the world who want to create backdoors for law enforcement
  • This could provide bad actors access to sensitive information risking national security and public safety
  • Hundreds of technology companies and civil society have already made the pledge to use strong encryption

A group of civil society organisations and technology companies around the world has come together to promote the use of strong encryption and prevent dangerous attempts by governments and law enforcement agencies to undermine it on the first ever Global Encryption Day.

Encryption safeguards the personal security of billions of people and the national security of countries around the world. Marginalised communities, domestic abuse survivors, and politicians who work with highly sensitive information all need encryption to keep their communications private and secure. Even law enforcement uses encrypted communications systems to ensure that organised criminals and terror organisations cannot gain access to their investigations. Thanks to strong encryption, people can access online banking and healthcare services without fear of their personal data being stolen.

The use of strong encryption has been called into question by many governments worldwide who are concerned about criminals exploiting encryption technology to hide illegal activity online. However, these proposals to weaken or undermine strong encryption could actually leave users more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and criminal activity.

Edward Snowden, Board Member of Freedom of the Press Foundation and the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations says: “If you weaken encryption, people will die. This year alone, after the fall of the government of Afghanistan, we saw how crucial encryption is in keeping ordinary people safe. The Covid pandemic brought home how essential encrypted messaging apps on our smartphones are for communicating with loved ones if we’re ill and need help. Doctors used encrypted messaging apps to communicate with their patients and share personal information securely. Encryption makes us all safer. From families protecting photographs of their kids, to personal healthcare information, encryption keeps our private information private.

“It would have been impossible for me to whistleblow without encryption. My first messages to journalists were made with encryption and without secure end-to-end encryption it is impossible to see how brave investigative journalism could happen at all.

“Despite this, governments around the world are seeking to weaken encryption by calling on platforms to create “backdoors” for law enforcement. I have seen first-hand how governments can abuse the power they have to access the personal data of innocent people in the name of national security. Weakening encryption would be a colossal mistake that could put thousands of lives at risk.”

CryptoHarlem founder Matt Mitchell says: “Strong Encryption allows marginalized communities around the world to protect themselves from the harms of technology. It allows us to escape the pervasive suspicious gaze that criminalizes our very identities. For too long the Black community in the United States were the ones technology “happened to” instead of “worked for”. Marginalized communities’ stories are the “canaries in the coal mine”, cautionary tales of what awaits all people in a world without encryption. Encryption returns humanity, empowerment and agency to all communities especially those who need it most. Strong encryption allows for privacy and privacy is not secrecy. Privacy is the ability to have doors and curtains, which allow us to choose with whom and when, to share our most personal & beautiful thoughts and moments.”

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia says: “Protecting strong encryption is essential for protecting the human rights of millions of people around the world. Everyone has the right to privacy and security – that can only be maintained with secure end-to-end encryption. Weakening encryption puts us all at risk. When we started Wikipedia, it was prohibitively expensive to use secure encryption for every page on the site, but it was always a priority of ours and we introduced it as soon as we could. There is no excuse for not using encryption now – governments and technology platforms have a duty to protect the public.”

Today, on the first ever Global Encryption Day, more than 70 events took place around the world showcasing how different walks of life have been kept safe using encryption. From LGBT Tech hosting an Instagram Live on why encryption is essential to the LGBTQ+ community, to leading civil society groups in Brazil hosting an all-women panel discussing the importance of encryption to keep social activism alive, and world renowned investigative journalists publicly pledging to Make the Switch to strong encryption in an open letter.

The Global Encryption Coalition is asking the public to Make the Switch to encrypted services on Global Encryption Day. Make your pledge to switch here.

You can watch the press conference in full on YouTube here.

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