Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

Did Facebook End The Encryption Debate?

The ability of encryption to shield a user’s communications rests upon the assumption that the sender and recipient’s devices are themselves secure, with the encrypted channel the only weak point… [But] Facebook announced earlier this year preliminary results from its efforts to move a global mass surveillance infrastructure directly onto users’ devices where it can bypass the protections of end-to-end encryption. In Facebook’s vision, the actual end-to-end encryption client itself such as WhatsApp will include embedded content moderation and blacklist filtering algorithms. These algorithms will be continually updated from a central cloud service, but will run locally on the user’s device, scanning each cleartext message before it is sent and each encrypted message after it is decrypted. The company even noted that when it detects violations it will need to quietly stream a copy of the formerly encrypted content back to its central servers to analyze further, even if the user objects, acting as true wiretapping service…

If Facebook’s model succeeds, it will only be a matter of time before device manufacturers and mobile operating system developers embed similar tools directly into devices themselves, making them impossible to escape… Governments would soon use lawful court orders to require companies to build in custom filters of content they are concerned about and automatically notify them of violations, including sending a copy of the offending content. Rather than grappling with how to defeat encryption, governments will simply be able to harness social media companies to perform their mass surveillance for them, sending them real-time alerts and copies of the decrypted content.

Putting this all together, the sad reality of the encryption debate is that after 30 years it is finally over: dead at the hands of Facebook. If the company’s new on-device content moderation succeeds it will usher in the end of consumer end-to-end encryption and create a framework for governments to outsource their mass surveillance directly to social media companies, completely bypassing encryption.

In the end, encryption’s days are numbered and the world has Facebook to thank.

You can read much more in an article by Kalev Leetaru in the Forbes web site at:

Comment: We all can hope that some computer companies will continue to offer computers without spyware embedded. Linux certainly has the capability to provide spyware-free operating systems.

For instance, Qubes OS, Tails, IprediaOS, Whonix, and TENS (Trusted End Node Security) are all Linux distributions that already offer great protection against spyware and other security issues with installed applications. Any of these, or perhaps all of them, could become the anti-spyware operating system(s) of tomorrow.

The TENS live CD is a product produced by the United States of America’s Department of Defense and is part of that organization’s Software Protection Initiative. If any organization wishes to avoid using applications that spy on users, it probably is the U.S. Department of Defense!

Categories: Encryption, Online Privacy & Security

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