Condemnation Against Canada’s Proposed War on Encryption Builds

The Canadian Liberal party might regret actively floating the idea of joining the war on encryption. More are stepping forward to condemn it.

In early August, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, suggested that Canada could join the war on encryption.

The move to crack down on security received significant pushback. The Citizen Lab blasted the proposal as “irresponsible”.

Now, there is a growing chorus of those who disagree with this plan. A member of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) has also issued statements against the proposed war on encryption. Staff lawyer from CIPPIC, Tamir Israel, says the proposal would public safety at risk. From The Toronto Star:

The government is now arguing that child exploitation and electoral threats suddenly require encryption backdoors in tools like the iPhone and WhatsApp. But the encryption tools in the government’s crosshairs have rarely impeded child exploitation convictions, while the transition to electronic voting mechanisms is making our democratic process more dependent on secure encryption. Indeed, law enforcement agencies themselves rely on encryption when conducting online undercover investigations.

Conversely, the costs of breaking encryption are difficult to overstate. Encryption is the backbone of cybersecurity. It secures our financial interactions, our health data and our mobile devices. Encryption is also integral to the work of security professionals, who are often targeted as convenient entry points into banks, social media platforms and other critical systems.

The government’s innovation agenda, aimed at making Canada a global innovation leader, is also threatened by this new proposal. Far from attracting the world’s creators to Canada’s doors, requiring companies to use broken encryption creates a hostile environment for innovation.

Nor are encryption backdoor mandates likely to ease investigative pressures. Past attempts by states to limit the use of strong encryption have simply led criminals to adopt secure tools that are developed in foreign states. In the end, backdoors make us all less secure while doing little to impede those willing to break the law.

This ultimately looks like a serious political misstep by the Liberal Party of Canada. Some broadcasters are likely avoiding this political scandal altogether in an effort to shield the two major parties from backlash. For Liberal party supporting broadcasters, it’s obvious they don’t want to see the Liberals electoral chances get hurt at this stage. For broadcasters that support the Conservatives, the calculus is likely that the party also supports these ideas, so bringing this up would be an electoral non-starter for them. So, it probably won’t get much play until at least after the election.

Still, this represents a very real threat to innovation and security. It is good to see this being brought up anyway as it is a very important component for the future of the country.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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