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ICYMI: Why requiring ‘back doors’ on encryption services is a bad idea

May 12, 2020 by AFP

Americans for Prosperity South Carolina State Director Andrew Yates | The Greenville News

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham recently introduced a bill that should give everyone in our state reason for pause. The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act, or EARN IT Act, is a measure that would jeopardize key free speech protections and could lead to a so-called “back door” in encrypted services – threatening our collective privacy and safety.

On the surface, the bill doesn’t seem harmful. In fact, it purports to address a problem that we can all agree deserves more attention, preventing online child exploitation.

So, why should anyone in South Carolina take issue with that?

Graham’s bill would give the attorney general the ability to force internet services to break encryption and reengineer their products in ways that have little to do with child sexual abuse material. The bill has one primary goal: to make services that offer end-to-end encryption illegal by coercing companies into building in so-called “back doors” for law enforcement.

Why is that a problem? We all rely on encrypted services in ways we may not even consider, from our private conversations with loved ones via iMessage or WhatsApp; to protecting our financial information when online banking and shopping; to securing our internet-connected devices like baby monitors and home thermostats. Encryption plays a meaningful role in securing our day-to-day interactions. Without it, we all become open targets for bad actors in a digital world.

Technology experts and civil society organizations have repeatedly warned that back doors for law enforcement would be exploited by bad actors. They correctly point out that no back door could guarantee only law-abiding officials have access. A “back door” for the good guys is a front door for the bad guys.

In an effort to prevent child exploitation, this bill might create new possibilities for innocent people to be exploited. Weakening encryption makes it easier for bad actors to access services like in-home cameras. This creates a scenario where ordinary people can be spied on, exploited and potentially extorted from their own homes.

Just like Graham, I’ve been proud to call the Palmetto State home for my entire life. I respect him because he’s worked hard to champion critical issues for our nation. And like me, he knows that South Carolinians value their security. That’s why I’d encourage him to put our safety and privacy ahead of short-sighted efforts that will weaken the encrypted services we all rely on.

Click here to read the full op-ed.