Nevada Courts Want To Prevent Teens From Using End-to-End Encryption

Stripping teens of their right to strong encryption will not leave them safer or better protected from harm.

Nevada Courts are rushing to block Meta from rolling out end-to-end encryption for their Messenger App and its integration in Facebook and Instagram. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that by locking teens in a house of glass they will be safe from online predators. Removing the bare minimum of security standards does not and will never protect the children. The Nevada Court should be ashamed of themselves.

The Attorney General of Nevada has introduced a court case which seeks to block Meta from updating their social media and messaging applications to include end-to-end encryption for persons who are, or are reasonably presumed to be, under the age of 18. Their crackpot logic is explained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as "in the name of protecting children, Nevada seems to be arguing that merely offering encryption on a social media platform that Meta knows has been used by criminals is itself illegal."

Removing essential security measures will not protect the youth.

It is difficult to understand how one could truly believe that removing access to secure communication would somehow protect the youth of Nevada from the creeping gaze of online predators. The online behavior of young adults is not likely to change, and now the state is attempting to remove the very encryption which protects kids and teens from threats of unwanted viewers of their personal lives. If such a restriction were to be accepted in a court of law, it opens the door to attacking encryption in the ongoing crypto wars. Maybe, instead of removing the rights of Nevada's youth, the Attorney General could better focus his attention on going after the actual criminals in this situation.

This is not the only legal move to attack encryption in recent years, we can look to EARN IT and the Stop CSAM Act as prime examples of misguided politicians attacking things which they do not understand. The Nevada Court uses the following language when describing end-to-end encryption "This conduct—which renders it impossible for anyone other than a private message’s sender and recipient to know what information the message contains—serves as an essential tool of child predators and drastically impedes law enforcement efforts to protect children from heinous online crimes, including human trafficking, predation, and other forms of dangerous exploitation."

Signal President Meredith Whittaker describes these legal proceedings as "embarrassing, but dangerous."

Do criminals use encryption, yes, but so does the rest of the world's internet users. Encryption is the backbone of the internet and keeps each one of us safe. If we follow their argument to its logical conclusion, we should remove all encryption for bank transactions to prevent money laundering, build houses out of glass to prevent domestic violence, and outlaw possession of any reasonably sharp pieces of metal. It is easy to dismiss this case as being ridiculous, but the fact that such discussions continue to be revisited is an attempt by opponents of privacy to wear down the reasonable citizens who use encryption to simply protect their data.

The State Attorney has the gall to claim that "Encryption on Messenger Enables Predators to Stalk Young Users with Impunity", but fails to recognize that stalkers could just as easily purchase unacceptable amounts of personal information legally through the unregulated Data Broker industry. - just like the NSA. Before going after encryption, maybe this problem should be addressed first. Due to lacking privacy and data protection laws in the United States, just knowing a person's name is enough to gather their life history through people search websites. We Americans should learn from the EU with the GDPR and its excellent data protection legislation.

Don't punish the youth of Nevada for the actions of criminals!

Teens are not going to stop using encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and alternatives, and they shouldn't. Instead, we need to trust them and enable them to protect themselves and their private communications through the use of encryption technologies.

This case is on-going and we will provide updates as soon as more information is made available.

Stay safe and happy encrypting.

Brandon fights for your right to privacy by spreading the word about privacy respecting products like Tuta. His expertise in US privacy law, encryption usage and policy, and American surveillance politics lets him explain complicated topics and privacy issues in an easy-to-grasp language. Privacy shouldn't be a luxury and by working at Tuta, Brandon helps bring privacy and security to everyone.
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