In a show of support that has typically eluded Facebook, 58 civil society organisations around the world wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, “encouraging” him to continue increasing end-to-end “security” across the company’s messaging services. This letter is in response to the open letter that the governments of the US, the UK and Australia sent to Zuckerberg on October 4, asking him to not implement end-to-end encryption on messaging services without backdoor access for governments.

Signatories include Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, Digital Rights Watch, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Internet Society. Pakistani organisation Bolo Bhi also signed the letter.

What did the civil society organisations say? They called the three governments’ approach “entirely backwards” and said that lack of end-to-end encryption meant making this data more vulnerable to breaches, mishandling, and exploitation by powerful or rogue entities.

What do the organisations want? Facebook should ensure default end-to-end encryption across messaging services and resist demands to create “backdoors” or “exceptional access” to the content of users’ messages.

Backdoor access is an assault on user privacy: Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had the open letter by US, UK and Australia’s governments “an all-out attack on encryption” and “a staggering attempt to undermine the security and privacy of communications tools used by billions of people”. EFF said that the letter ignored the “severe risks” associated with introducing encryption backdoors:

  • Risk to journalists, human rights activists, victims of abusive partners
  • Lack of protection from criminals and corporations from spying on our private conversations
  • Facebook would face immense pressure to make such backdoors available to authoritarian regimes as well

“We strongly believe that governments should not force companies to break end-to-end encryption. It undermines people’s privacy and threatens access to internet for people who are just beginning to trust and use the internet,” Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Policy Director at Access Now, told MediaNama.