A new bipartisan proposed bill drafted by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham aims to develop ‘recommended best practices’ to help with the prevention of online child exploitation. The bill looks nothing but a noble cause to tackle the ever increasing risk of child exploitation in today’s digital world, until you scratch its surface.
In his bill draft that is called ‘Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019’ or simply EARN IT, Senator Graham has proposed a system that could see ban of all end-to-end encryption in order to aid law enforcement agencies to catch those involved in such exploitations. However we all know once the encryption has been removed the new found access will also be utilized for other less-noble purposes.
The bill draft does not mention encryption by word, however the methods that are proposed by the Senator can only be implemented when there’s no encryption present. Companies such as Apple or Facebook will also be required to provide user information to law enforcement.
In addition to the radical implication of banning all end-to-end encryption the Senator has also proposed other methods to keep the Internet safer for children. For example, he proposes that there should be age limits for accessing online material in addition to a rating system that would categorize images by severity.
“[Best practices] shall include… coordinating with law enforcement agencies and other industry participants to preserve, remove from view, and report material relating to child exploitation or child sexual abuse,” says the draft bill.
“[Also] retention of evidence and attribution or user identification data relating to child exploitation or child sexual abuse, including such retention by subcontractors,” it continues.
These particular portions of the bill drafted as shared by AppleInsider are cause for concern for anyone interested in protecting public’s right to privacy. It would not be possible for tech companies to monitor what is being shared on their platforms and provide law enforcement agencies access to this information without removing or weakening end-to-end encryption on their communication platforms.
And once encryption is out of the picture law enforcement agencies and others will get access to more than just the user identification data related to child exploitation, which does appear to be the secondary motive of this bill.
Apple or any other tech company has yet to publicly respond on this bill draft. However Apple’s Senior Director of global privacy Jane Horvath has already stated at CES 2019 that her company will not be weakening encryption on its products.
“Building back doors into encryption is not the way we are going to solve those issues,”.