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Encryption debate needs to happen now, say signatories

Paul Brislen, Editor. 03 July 2017, 6:47 am

Organisations and individuals from the countries that make up the Five Eyes spying network - Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States - have written an open letter defending strong encryption.

Five Eyes has long sought to shut down public access to secure systems because encryption and other techniques make the job of spying a lot harder. Following the terror attacks in London, government leaders have been meeting to discuss toughening their stance on encryption, with the UK and Australia both calling for state-sanctioned backdoors to be built into messaging applications and other programs to allow security services to monitor conversations.

Thomas Beagle, chair for the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, is one of 83 signatories to the letter which includes InternetNZ, Reporters without Borders, Rights Watch UK and others. In a written statement which accompanies the letter, Beagle says, "We increasingly rely on a secure Internet for work, personal relationships, commerce, and politics. While we support justifiable lawful intercept with appropriate oversight, we don't think we should be seriously weakening the security of the Internet to achieve it. Attempts to weaken encryption will do more damage to our society and our freedom than the possible threats it's meant to be protecting us from."

To help drive public debate on the issue, InternetNZ has released two discussion documents relating to encryption.

The first defines encryption for the layman audience and the second lays out what InternetNZ believes needs to be done to ensure a fair balance between security and privacy concerns.

InternetNZ Deputy Chief Executive Andrew Cushen says this is a debate that is playing out all over the world.

"Some people realise the privacy and security benefits encryption technologies allow and others only see encryption as a tool allowing bad people to do bad things. The fact is that encryption protects everyone's security and privacy and is a vital part of how the Internet works for us all."


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