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Legislative Proposals in the UK, US, and EU Would Restrict End-to-End Encryption Online—Making Internet Users Less Safe

LONDON—From Washington to London to Brussels, policymakers are advancing a trio of legislative proposals aimed at protecting Internet users. But without amendments to protect end-to-end encryption, these bills would undermine users’ security and privacy protections, leaving them more vulnerable online, according to a new report from the Center for Data Innovation.

The report analyzes the U.S. EARN IT Act, which is likely to be reintroduced in the new Congress next year; the UK Online Safety Bill; and an EU scanning proposal to prevent child abuse online. All three would impose monitoring obligations for online services that would amount to de facto prohibitions on end-to-end encryption, according to the Center.

“The European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States significantly influence Internet policy around the world, so it does not bode well for the future of privacy, security, and free expression that proposals like these are advancing on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Nuthi. “If enacted, these content moderation proposals will create a new foundation for online content regulation globally that tips intermediary liability on its head for the worse. These proposals could even give cover to regimes in undemocratic nations that want to circumvent end-to-end encryption at the expense of human rights and freedoms.”

The Center’s report recommends excluding encrypted services from monitoring obligations and instead pursuing alternative proposals to increase public safety on the Internet, including:

  • Increase resources for national law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute criminal activity online.
  • Improve reporting from and coordination with online services to better enable national law enforcement agencies to track, remove, and prosecute illegal activity in a timelier fashion.

Read the report.

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The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. Recognized by its peers in the think tank community as the global center of excellence for science and technology policy, ITIF’s mission is to formulate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress.

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