(ReliableNews.org) – When many people hear phrases like “online privacy” and “digital security” they might immediately think about surface-level issues. Important things like account and password safety, scanning their computer for viruses and avoiding spoof websites come to mind. Those aside, there are more fundamental concepts to worry about, like data encryption.
Data encryption is very useful, but it’s in danger. There’s a movement in Congress that could end it. If successful, law enforcement will have “legal access” to all digital messages.
Data Encryption and What it Does for You
Think of data encryption as a lock. A door with a deadbolt keeps you safer than one with just a handle. If the encryption on data sent between you and a website is removed, it’s like someone taking the lock off of the front door of your house.
Encrypting data makes it harder for hackers to see what you’re doing online and steal sensitive information. That’s a very basic overview of what encryption does. It actually does much more than just keep you safe.
Encryption is a crucial aspect of any online platform and is one of the foundational structures of the internet. Data encryption is the meat and potatoes that numerous security protocols are built upon, including authentication services.
Have you ever used a “two-factor authentication” app on your phone when logging into an account? That technology is built on data encryption principles.
Decrypting the Internet Hurts Everyone
Removing the proverbial lock from the door makes everyone’s data available for anyone to see at will. For example, inputting your credit card information into an unencrypted website is akin to sharing those details to anyone monitoring that activity. The internet would be fundamentally different without data encryption because all information would be fair game.
- User data
- Login credentials
- Credit card information
- Social media content
None of the above, or anything else, would be secure.
The Bill That Could End Encryption
The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act could change the internet forever. The bill was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-MO), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on March 5.
It’s one way in which Congress might be attempting to address certain issues that have arisen from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 is a complicated piece of legislation that, for better or worse, many consider a fundamental pillar of the internet. If passed, the EARN IT Act would remove Section 230 protections from websites that don’t follow a set of “best practices,” which would be drafted by a government commission led by Attorney General William Barr.
Barr has made it clear that he’d ban encryption and give law enforcement access to any digital message. While the word “encryption” is not explicitly in the bill, it seems to relate to it.
In practice, the bill would enable direct attacks against encryption.
There are certainly good reasons to be concerned about the way big tech companies operate in regards to user privacy and censorship. However, there are better ways to address bad corporate practices than giving enough leeway for the government to potentially launch a direct assault against foundational elements of the internet.
Make no mistake about it, the EARN IT Act would set a dangerous precedent regarding the safety and security of anyone using the internet.
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