Recent news around Apple’s resistance to the US government’s demand to decrypt the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters has brought encryption into mainstream discussion. The level of public discourse we have seen is already a victory, and an opportunity to engage more. The following is our response to the Apple case and the important issues it brings to the forefront:
“It’s difficult to discuss policy and precedent in the wake of horrific attacks. Yet, it remains true that asking Apple to circumvent their own security protections is a massive overreach. It sets a dangerous precedent that threatens consumers’ security going forward. Companies should be encouraged to aggressively strengthen the security of their products, rather than undermine that security. We must be careful not to let terrible events define something as ubiquitous as encryption, a critical component of the Internet and everyday life online.
“We need people to understand and engage with encryption as a core technology that keeps our everyday transactions and conversations safe and private. We’re currently running an awareness campaign to educate users on the importance of encryption. Encryption deserves the same magnitude of support that issues like net neutrality have received.”
Today, the Internet is one of our most important global public resources. It’s open, free and essential to our daily lives. It’s where we chat, play, bank and shop. It’s also where we create, learn and organize.
All of this is made possible by a set of core principles. Like the belief that individual security and privacy on the Internet is fundamental.
Mozilla is devoted to standing up for these principles and keeping the Internet a global public resource. That means watching for threats. And recently, one of these threats to the open Internet has started to grow: efforts to undermine encryption.
Encryption is key to a healthy Internet. It’s the encoding of data so that only people with a special key can unlock it, such as the sender and the intended receiver of a message. Internet users depend on encryption everyday, often without realizing it, and it enables amazing things. It safeguards our emails and search queries, and medical data. It allows us to safely shop and bank online. And it protects journalists and their sources, human rights activists and whistleblowers.
Encryption isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity. This is why Mozilla has always taken encryption seriously: it’s part of our commitment to protecting the Internet as a public resource that is open and accessible to all.
Government agencies and law enforcement officials across the globe are proposing policies that will harm user security through weakening encryption. The justification for these policies is often that strong encryption helps bad actors. In truth, strong encryption is essential for everyone who uses the Internet. We respect the concerns of law enforcement officials, but we believe that proposals to weaken encryption — especially requirements for backdoors — would seriously harm the security of all users of the Internet.
At Mozilla, we continue to push the envelope with projects like Let’s Encrypt, a free, automated Web certificate authority dedicated to making it easy for anyone to run an encrypted website. Developed in collaboration with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cisco, Akamai and many other technology organizations, Let’s Encrypt is an example of how Mozilla uses technology to make sure we’re all more secure on the Internet.
However, as more and more governments propose tactics like backdoors, technology alone will not be enough. We will also need to get Mozilla’s community — and the broader public — involved. We will need them to tell their elected officials that individual privacy and security online cannot be treated as optional. We can play a critical role if we get this message across.
We know this is a tough road. Most people don’t even know what encryption is. Or, they feel there isn’t much they can do about online privacy. Or, both.
This is why we are starting a public education campaign run with the support of our community around the world. In the coming weeks, Mozilla will release videos, blogs and activities designed to raise awareness about encryption. You can watch our first video today — it shows why controlling our personal information is so key. More importantly, you can use this video to start a conversation with friends and family to get them thinking more about privacy and security online.
If we can educate millions of Internet users about the basics of encryption and its connection to our everyday lives, we’ll be in a good position to ask people to stand up when the time comes. We believe that time is coming soon in many countries around the world. You can pitch in simply by watching, sharing and having conversations about the videos we’ll post over the coming weeks.
If you want to get involved or learn more about Mozilla’s encryption education campaign, visit mzl.la/encrypt. We hope you’ll join us to learn about and support encryption.