By Rich Sill
Privacy and security are the utmost priorities of millions of internet users. Popular messaging apps like WhatsApp from Meta, Signal and Telegram all use end-to-end encryption to keep users’ messages and searches private and secure. Users’ messages are scrambled up by their devices and then unscrambled by the recipient’s device. This makes the content of messages secure and privacy-protected, so much so that not even the company providing encryption can view them. End-to-end encryption is considered the most secure and privacy-protected method of communication. Although it may be used for some bad things, the service is a vital tool for the security and human rights of millions of people around the world.
The encryption and decryption of users’ private messages gives people the opportunity to truly express themselves. The service enables people to freely express themselves online, to freely associate and assemble with any groups they please and provide them with access to information. With the global workforce becoming more hybrid or fully online, end-to-end encryption is especially important to keep workers protected. After issues related to Zoom’s security were exposed early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the company began providing the ability to activate end-to-end encryption for its users for free to provide greater security for its users beginning in late 2020. The ability to freely express oneself online while being secure is becoming ever-more important, especially as digital security to combat cyber threats is evolving. There has been a recent increase in hostile surveillance and spyware, and a lot of the information sent online contains a lot of sensitive information.
There are some people, however, that want to limit companies’ ability to safely encrypt the messages of millions of people because criminals could use end-to-end encryption to sexually exploit traffic or commit human trafficking. Currently, the EARN IT Act of 2022 is a proposed bill that would outright ban end-to-end encryption in the name of child safety. Although this bill is meant to protect people, it would risk the privacy and security of millions of Americans. End-to-end encryption has been proven to be the safest and most secure method of communication, and it is necessary to keep millions of people safe and able to freely express themselves.
To better protect users with end-to-end encryption while also making sure harmful acts like human trafficking don’ happen, providers should work with stakeholders to provide better user reporting and expand in-app education features so users can better understand the service they are being provided. In addition, companies should be investing and evolving their harm-prevention strategies as cybersecurity becomes increasingly vital.