Open Letter to the Presidency of the European Union in Defense of the Freedom to Use Secure Encryption Opinion

To the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2021

Dear Prime Minister, António Costa,

We are writing to share our concern about the consequences of what appears to be a new European Union directive on the use of digital cryptography for civil purposes, both in terms of citizens’ rights and guarantees and in terms of slow progress. made for a digital transition and its consequences.

Under the argument that it is important to fight organized crime and the terrorist threat, the Council of the European Union (CUE) in its memo of November 24th, 2020 and the European Commission (EC) in its communiqué of December 9th, 2020. In 2020 you affirm your intention to regulate the use of cryptography in digital communications with the aim of enabling police authorities to “read” encrypted communications by order of the courts. It is important to keep the following facts in mind when considering this intention:

The basic cryptographic elements available today do not make it possible to achieve the goals stated by CUE and CE without compromising the guarantees offered by current protocols. Without new (and unlikely) primitive cryptographic elements, the only way to achieve the purposes expressed by the CUE and CE is to weaken existing cryptographic systems. It is not to be expected that such voluntary weakening of the encryption used cannot be used to interrupt its use, thereby facilitating a further series of criminal acts. This would dramatically undermine public confidence in the use of the digital communications network, which could have dramatic consequences for an economy like today that is heavily reliant on digital transactions. It is not enough that there are cryptographic systems that have such a property; it is also necessary that current systems are no longer used. The only way to do this would be to ban the use of traditional cryptographic systems that only affect ordinary people without restricting criminal practices. Every “solution” in which the behavior of software parts is changed with regard to the same goals (creation of “back doors”) leads to even greater weaknesses and even worse results for the security of the systems and thus to factors that users trust in digital Decrease media. There are actions and connections that cannot be examined in our legal building, even by court order. This new cryptographic order now being proposed would therefore have to include citizens among those who could legally use strong cryptography and others who would have to commit a crime to do so.

Subscribers caution that if this line of stupid persecution of the use of cryptography is followed, it will lead to:

It is not possible to effectively combat the crimes that are to be avoided because, as we have seen, it is not possible to prevent the use of alternative cryptography. On the other hand, the criminalization of a multitude of measures that were previously seen as legitimate and justified. Trying to counter the public trust that is now built into digital communications, as well as its widespread use, jeopardizes the equilibrium of a digital economy, the importance of which is considerable today. A dramatic reduction in the guarantees ordinary people are given of their right to privacy. Promoting a situation that can be fertile ground for the development of regimes with strong control of the population to the detriment of their democratic freedoms.

The signatories

Eduardo Santos, President of the D3 Association – Defense of Digital Rights
José Rebelo, President of the Association for Communication and Journalism Studies (AECJ)
Marcos Marado, Vice President of the National Free Software Association (Ansol)
Maria Helena Monteiro, President of the Association for the Development of the Information Society (APDSI)
Ana Alves Pereira, President of the Portuguese Association of Librarians, Archivists, Information and Documentation Professionals
José Legatheaux Martins, President of the Portuguese Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC PT)

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