Leak: Comcast Lobbying Government to Stop Encryption

A leaked slideshow suggests that Comcast is lobbying the US government to stop encryption. Specifically, they don’t like DoH encryption.

DoH (DNS over HTTPS) encryption is the next big thing in web encryption after HTTPS. The idea is that this encryption would prevent tracking and overall web censorship. Mozilla, one of the developers behind the initiative, has been testing this initiative for quite some time. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has praised the initiative, saying that they are “very excited about the privacy protections that DoH will bring”.

Of course, spy agencies are against this initiative. As we reported previously, GCHQ is among those who are trying to put a stop to this added security layer for users. They say that there will be “unintended consequences” if users privacy is better protected. Now, it seems that spy agencies aren’t the only ones against personal privacy.

A leaked slideshow suggests that big US ISPs are also against it. It seems that the motivation is that ISPs efforts to track users surfing habits and sell targeted advertising could be thwarted by the initiative. More from Motherboard:

The plan, which Google intends to implement soon, would enforce the encryption of DNS data made using Chrome, meaning the sites you visit. Privacy activists have praised Google’s move. But ISPs are pushing back as part of a wider lobbying effort against encrypted DNS, according to the presentation. Technologists and activists say this encryption would make it harder for ISPs to leverage data for things such as targeted advertising, as well as block some forms of censorship by authoritarian regimes.

Mozilla, which makes Firefox, is also planning a version of this encryption.

“The slides overall are extremely misleading and inaccurate, and frankly I would be somewhat embarrassed if my team had provided that slide deck to policy makers,” Marshall Erwin, senior director of trust and safety at Mozilla, told Motherboard in a phone call after reviewing sections of the slide deck.

“We are trying to essentially shift the power to collect and monetize peoples’ data away from ISPs and providing users with control and a set of default protections,” he added, regarding Mozilla’s changes.

What this shows is that the push to keep users information insecure is not exclusively coming from global spy agencies. There are also private corporations who are pushing to thwart privacy protections as well. So, there is a financial motive to stop privacy initiatives as well.

In retrospect, this is not really that surprising. Until now, we haven’t seen any evidence that private corporations are also pushing to stop this latest privacy initiative. At this stage, there is a lot of moving parts and a lot of possibilities that could occur here.

One possibility is that the initiative to thwart privacy backfires and everyone is better off. Another possibility is that the US ultimately bans effective encryption, thus pushing the privacy movement underground. Then, that opens up how enforcement would play out. A third possibility is that effective encryption is banned and US companies are compelled to stop offering it. At that point, we are looking at offshore solutions to protect personal privacy. Then access becomes a difficult thing to get and things simply get very messy very quick.

We are in early days in this part of the privacy debate. It’ll be interesting to see how these developments unfold.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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