Proton Mail Joins Global Encryption Coalition to Challenge Australia's eSafety Standards

Proton Mail Joins Global Encryption Coalition to Challenge Australia's eSafety Standards
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Introduction

Proton Mail, along with the Global Encryption Coalition, is taking a stand against the Australian government's proposed online safety standards. These standards, under scrutiny for potentially undermining end-to-end encryption, have sparked a significant response from privacy advocates and tech companies worldwide.

Take Action: Sign the joint letter in response to Australian eSafety proposed industry standards – Global Encryption Coalition
The Australian government is currently considering draft online safety standards that threaten to undermine the use of end-to-end encryption, putting security and privacy of Internet users at greater risk. The eSafety Commissioner has proposed two draft industry standards under the Online Safety Act. Both draft standards include a range of proactive detection obligations on digital […]

Background of the Issue

The Australian eSafety Commissioner's proposed standards aim to combat child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and pro-terror content online. However, the lack of specific safeguards for end-to-end encrypted services in the draft standards has raised concerns about privacy and security implications.

Proton Mail’s Legal Battle for Privacy: Challenging Australia’s eSafety Regulator
Introduction Proton, the Switzerland-based encrypted email service, has taken a firm stand against the Australian online safety regulator’s proposed standards that could potentially weaken encryption. The company’s founder, Andy Yen, has vowed to fight in court rather than compromise user privacy. Proton will never break encryption for any gov’t. If

Proton Mail's Position

Proton Mail's founder, Andy Yen, has expressed the company's commitment to fighting any legal action that would force them to undermine their encryption standards. Proton, known for its strong stance on user privacy, has previously maintained its encryption standards in various countries, including Iran and Russia.


Global Encryption Coalition's Response

The Global Encryption Coalition, comprising organizations like the Center for Democracy & Technology, Global Partners Digital, and Mozilla, has issued a joint letter to the eSafety Commissioner. The letter urges the Commissioner to protect the privacy and safety of all users by preserving end-to-end encrypted services.


Concerns Over Proposed Standards

The proposed standards include proactive detection obligations on digital services to scan content, which could force encrypted services to implement client-side scanning measures. Such measures are criticized for:

  • Questionable effectiveness and high risk of false positives.
  • Increasing vulnerabilities to security threats, thereby weakening online safety.
  • Potential expansion to scan other categories of content in the future.

Advocacy for Encryption

The coalition emphasizes the importance of encryption in protecting the rights and safety of internet users, including children. Alternative methods to enhance online safety, such as user reporting, are suggested over tech solutionism.


Australian Government's Stance

The eSafety Commissioner has stated support for privacy and security and does not advocate building weaknesses or back doors in encrypted services. However, the coalition argues that client-side scanning fundamentally undermines the principle of private and secure communications.


International Implications

The coalition warns that proceeding with the standards as drafted could signal to other countries that online safety is counterposed to privacy and security, which they argue is not the case.

A Call for Withdrawal: The Controversial Telecommunications Bill, 2023 in India
Key Takeaway: An international coalition of organizations and experts has urged the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to retract the proposed Telecommunications Bill, 2023. The bill faces scrutiny due to potential impacts on privacy, surveillance, and fundamental rights. The Government of India has passed a sweeping bill that jeopardizes the

Conclusion

The joint effort by Proton Mail and the Global Encryption Coalition highlights the global concern over maintaining privacy and security in the face of regulatory measures. The outcome of this challenge could set a precedent in the balance between online safety and the preservation of encryption, impacting internet governance and regulation worldwide.