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The United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a new report saying that around the world, freedom of expression and opinion have become tied to privacy and digital security. The commissioner also cautions that if security tools become weakened in any country, it can be destabilized everywhere.
According to the report written by David Kaye, a special rapporteur, encryption – the digital scrambling of information to prevent unauthorized access — and anonymity tools “offer the essential privacy and security needed to exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion in a digital age as this.” By next month, the U.N. Human Rights Council will receive the report.
It finds a place among a rising debate in the U.S. about the best way of balancing national security and personal privacy rights. Since the revelations of Edward Snowden, who was the former government contractor, about National Security Agency surveillance programs, measures have been taken by tech companies to scramble and encrypt more of their products.
Now, some officials working in the U.S. law enforcement department are working towards having tech companies develop ways to make all secure contents that passes through their products accessible to the government – these are the “backdoors.”
James Comey and Michael Rogers, the FBI Director and NSA chief Adm. respectively, have responded to the growth in the use of encryption as being able to complicate tracking of criminals — and they maintained that it is necessary that the government demand that companies should develop ways through which their encrypted content will become accessible to law enforcement agencies.
An idea was proposed by Rogers, earlier this year that the digital “key” used by companies in content encryption should be split into multiple parts such that no single individual is able to personally use it. The proposal seemed to be an effort to win over some set of skeptical security experts, who believes that these “backdoors” could be organized securely.
The report warns against backdoors, stating that “all measures that cause weakness in individual online security, including backdoors, key escrows, and weak encryption standards, should be avoided by the states.”
Kaye stated in an interview held with the Post that “the challenge that comes with each of those tactics is the threat of causing weakness in already secure systems.” He also added that “the result of those approaches is to render the entire public insecure, despite the fact that it is aimed at aiding criminal law enforcement.”
Apart from the mentions crime and terrorism, the protection that encryption offers to activists, journalists, and every random individual has not been mentioned or considered in the public debate on this matter in the U.S, Kaye says.
He added that “millions of people around the world base their security on encryptionor [the use of anonymous browsing tools] as a way of protecting against leakage of their communications and to search for information.”

According to him, if measures are taken by the U.S government to enforce backdoors in order to aid law enforcement, it could bring about similar actions in other nations whose human rights records are poor. “It’s quite obvious that anytime things that do not agree with human right laws are done by well-established democracies, it is often taken as an excuse by others around the world, even when they do not belong to such democratic camp,” said Kaye.