A new threat to your freedom of speech and privacy has appeared. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have joined in introducing the EARN IT Act (S. 3398) bill in Congress. This act’s intention is hidden behind the guise of protecting children, but in reality seeks to potentially undermine the end-to-end encryption and security that exists for almost all internet communications, especially social messaging platforms like WhatsApp and other U.S. based messaging platforms. This would give dangerous men like Attorney General William Barr, who has expressed his opinions about encryption in the past, the legal authority to demand platforms decrypt communications. Don’t be fooled, if this bill passes it will do little to actually protect children and instead put your data and private conversations at risk to online criminals and foreign governments. It is not just your private messages, but other means of communications that are at risk.

Various rights watch organizations have already denounced the bill, including the ACLU.

Tech companies have an extraordinary special safeguard against legal liability, but that unique protection comes with a responsibility. Companies that fail to comport with basic standards that protect children from exploitation have betrayed the public trust granted them by this special exemption. Online platforms’ near-complete immunity from legal responsibility is a privilege – they have to earn it – and that’s what our bipartisan bill requires.

Blumenthal

Don’t be fooled. Companies do not have to “earn” this immunity from what their users say and do on their platforms. What’s more, it’s a false premise. Online criminals will use other means to conduct their operations and believe me, they will. This only hurts the everyday citizen, who has done nothing wrong and has everything to lose.

I’ve got to say that putting our children at risk for what I believe are marginal privacy gains is something I really struggle to believe any of us want.

James Brokenshire

Many security and privacy experts, as expected, disagree with that assessment. And, In my opinion, is a red flag to what the true intentions of these politicians are. Either that or they are so completely ignorant of how all of this works that it is borderline irresponsible. We are not dealing with tech-savvy or even privacy-savvy individuals.

What’s more, there are serious concerns that this act is unconstitutional or at least it should be. Some say that it violates the first and fourth amendments of freedom of speech and the press, and the right to protect against unreasonable searches and seizures. How? By giving courts unprecedented access to previously encrypted information such as emails, private messages, and other documents.

The EARN It Act is a terrible idea. Not just because it won’t do what it sets out to do, but because it undermines some of our basic freedoms and puts us all at risk for tyrannical government and cybercrime.

Help stop the EARN IT Act by contacting your congressperson. Take action here.