Nevada Wants to Reduce Online Protections for Children: All Internet Users Should Benefit from Strong Encryption Thumbnail
Strengthening the Internet 12 March 2024

Nevada Wants to Reduce Online Protections for Children: All Internet Users Should Benefit from Strong Encryption

By Dan YorkDirector, Internet Technology

Today we joined an effort to stop the State of Nevada from making it easier for children’s personal information to be obtained by child predators, criminal gangs, foreign nations, and others.

The State of Nevada seems to think that children deserve less protection online. Under a misguided view of seeking to “protect” children, the State of Nevada is asking for an injunction to prevent Meta from making the strongest online protection–end-to-end encryption (E2EE)–the default for children in Facebook Messenger.

This action will not protect children. Instead, if granted, it would weaken the protection children have online. Messages children send to their parents or friends would be exposed to potential eavesdropping from predators and others. Shared photos, videos, audio, and other content would all be open to interception by criminals, predators, and other attackers.

The State of Nevada seems to believe this weakening of protection is necessary for law enforcement, but as we have long said, there is no way to only allow law enforcement to access messages. Any “back doors” or other weakening of encryption are vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.

Filing an Amicus Brief

On 20 March, the District Court in Clark County, Nevada, will hold a hearing on the State’s request to prevent Meta from giving children’s communications the highest level of protection. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and encryption researcher and advocate Riana Pfefferkorn jointly developed an amicus brief that was submitted today, providing information to the court about why granting this request would harm children instead of protect them, and emphasizing just how integral encryption is to everyone’s safety online.

We at the Internet Society have signed on to this amicus brief, as have Access Now, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), Fight For The Future, Mozilla Corporation, and Signal Messenger LLC.

E2EE Is Already The Default In Other Messaging Applications

As the amicus brief notes, end-to-end encryption is already the default on other messaging systems. WhatsApp, also owned by Meta, has had E2EE as the default since 2016. Apple’s iMessage has defaulted to E2EE since 2011. Google’s Messenger defaults to E2EE between Android users, and other messaging applications such as Signal have used E2EE for years. Facebook Messenger itself has provided the option to use E2EE since 2016, and just started enabling E2EE as the default late last year.

Encryption, and specifically end-to-end encryption, is one of the greatest tools we have to protect our communication and information online. We join with our colleagues at all these other organizations in asking the District Court of Clark County to protect the children of Nevada by allowing their communication to be secure by default and not open to interception.

See also:

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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