We all use online communications to maintain contact with friends and family, to share information fast when time is crucial in spite of physical distance, to research, develop, connect, interact.
In a world where we all increasingly rely on it, online communication must be safe and trusted.
A grandmother sending a photo of a young child in the bath tub, to parents living abroad. A doctor using chat apps to consults with patients who can not travel for a physical examination.
All of the above are normal and legitimate ways of communicating online. However, when conversations are monitored and scanned, these kind of photos are easy to be misinterpreted. Both a grandmother and a patient could be automatically flagged as abuse perpetrators.
The measures proposed by the EU with its CSA Regulation affect us all. However, you should be particularly worried if you are or care about a young person / teenager, workers that uphold professional secrecy and human rights defenders.
Young people & teenagers
Young people have the right to self-determination. Safe, secure and private online spaces and communication channels are core to exercising this right.
A big part of being young is exploring our identities and owning our own power by finding out what we like, what we believe in and who we want to be. In a digitalised society, online spaces are a essential part of this stage in life as we connect with others, including through social media, instant messaging apps and video-games. Online spaces provide extraordinary opportunities to connect with others and to build safe spaces for exploration. Empowering and safe spaces can only be possible with privacy, without private companies, governments and others snooping on our electronic devices such as our phones or laptops.
For young people, the scanning of private communications, pictures and searches online, turns normal activities into risky business. It can have serious consequences, in particular for queer, racialised or other marginalised youth.
Online spaces provide extraordinary opportunities to connect with others and to build safe spaces for exploration. Empowering and safe spaces can only be possible with privacy
Journalism, doctors, lawyers
We all need privacy. However, some categories of professionals have an obligation not to disclose confidential information about their clients, patients, sources. Whether it is journalists investigating the truth or combating dis or misinformation, lawyers consulting their clients or doctors and therapists supporting their patients - privacy is essential. In this cases, communication must happen in a secure and safe way.
Investigative journalists find it essential to use end-to-end encrypted messaging to be able to research powerful people in the governments or companies. For example, the team of Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) relies on safe, private communications to research Russian atrocities in the war with Ukraine. If powerful or corrupt people are able to snoop in researchers' conversations, most could be intimidated, harassed, threatened or worse. A chilling effect is most likely to happen, weakening democracy as powerful people are not held accountable. The proposed CSAR would make surveillance of journalists the rule and the protection of their sources impossible.
Psychologists, doctors, lawyers, and all professions who uphold professional secrecy lean on safe communications to be able to comply with their duty. Destroying private and safe communications would make this impossible. Nobody should be forced to have their medical, legal or mental health issues scanned. When a San Francisco father sent a photo of his ill young son to his doctor, the police started investigating. He was later informed him that copies of the search warrants were served, on Google and his internet service provider.
Whether it is journalists investigating the truth or combating dis or misinformation, lawyers consulting their clients or doctors and therapists supporting their patients - privacy is essential.
Human rights defenders
Human rights (including our digital rights) defenders have sustained most of positive social change. They are activists, volunteers and whistleblowers, political dissidents, professionals working with civil society organisations. They shine light on human rights violations, systemic injustice and climate, social and economic justice demands.
However, in the past decades, human rights defenders and activists are increasingly facing surveillance by States and malicious actors. This often turns into violence and repercussion against human rights defenders.
For human rights defender, secure and trusted communication is often a matter of physical safety and democratic organising.
Pushing for accountability and justice in the face of powerful actors puts them at risk of persecution -and even criminalisation - around the globe. Secure online communication channels support their organising.
Activists at the front lines of human rights violations share information about protest, gathering places, and comment on tactics for speaking truth to power.
Human rights organisations share important information on the cases they are investigating, on research sources, on strategy, on staff members, etc.
Whistleblowers need confidential information sharing channels to reveal information that will uncover illegal or immoral activities in corporations or governments.
Think of UN whistleblowers that uncovered UN's inaction in cases of sexual abuse, complicity in money laundry, etc. In the case of women defenders, land defenders from indigenous groups, racial justice activists, sex workers defenders and defenders of migrants, unsafe communications can have life or death consequences.
Their valuable work for human rights and democracy is made possible by strong protections and safe communication channels. End-to-end-encryption is part of their basic work tools to avoid being monitored by the same governments or corporations they are denouncing. Encryption, safe communications and anonymity are essential for this.
The CSA Regulation endangers the life of human rights defenders in Europe and across the globe.
For human rights defenders, secure and trusted communication is often a matter of physical safety and democratic organising.
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