U.S. Senate Stripping our Privacy Again "Bit by Bit" with the EARN IT Bill

A sneaky attack disguised as a noble cause.
by Lea Bernus
With the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) raging worldwide these days, other important events have been swept under the rug with the current media-panic.
So, what is this new shenanigan called EARN IT?
EARN IT is a new legislation introduced by the U.S. Senate that would remove the protections of service providers (also known as Section 230) if they do not implement a specific methodology to scan each message in their platform for child pornography.
Section 230 is what allows services such as Discord, Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram to exist. If these protections were removed, every single one of those services would become liable whenever a user does an illegal act.
In other words, if those protections were to disappear, these platforms wouldn't be able to function and would simply cease to exist.

An attack on privacy and end-to-end encryption

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and many other big providers care very much about encryption. While these firms enjoy collecting our data, they also realize that they hold way too much of it. And after numerous scandals, they know that they can make their customers happier (and incidentally safer) by encrypting some of that data.
Because this is what it's all about: EARN IT is an extremely clear attack on encryption and people’s privacy.
Currently, these providers and the services cited above use end-to-end encryption to protect their users' communications from prying eyes.
When authorities have access to these services, they can freely eavesdrop on everything that has been said "in private."
A very good example of this is the Chinese government stance on privacy. They can check the messages of their own citizens with impunity. As such, allowing a bill such as EARN IT to pass, will only get us closer to such invasive politics.
The Chinese population has been extremely clever to bypass the Chinese government censorship and "all seeing eye" in regards of the current coronavirus epidemic, by using tactics to "encrypt" messages and censored articles with typos, Morse code and more. But at the end of the day, they have to resort to ingenuity to share the truth among them and the world.
While we aren't quite there, yet, we are definitely heading towards a world where privacy simply doesn't exist.
And while fighting against child pornography is a very noble cause, destroying our rights in the process isn't the way to win this fight.

The war against encryption

Over the past few years, there has been a very aggressive campaign from the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to quite simply suppress end-to-end encryption services.
However, this campaign hasn't been very successful so far.
With EARN IT, instead of demanding tech companies to provide access in cases of serious criminal circumstances (with a warrant), this bill would force providers to use a specific scanning solution embedded in the encryption or cease using encryption altogether.
So, knowing that major fact, it becomes clear that child pornography is a backdoor to ban encryption on commercial services.
The government here knows that these firms will be unable to apply this specific type of encryption. Thus, the plan is to force them to cease using end-to-end encryption or go bankrupt.
One hell of a choice.

Why EARN IT would also be an economical disaster?

Today, end-to-end encryption is key to maintain security over computer systems. It is the most promising technology we currently possess to prevent hacking, data loss and the cyber-harm that can happen to the most vulnerable of us.
In consequence, do remember that the U.S. Senate decides how Silicon Valley does its job. If this bill were to pass, end-to-end encryption would be in serious trouble since tech companies wouldn’t find it viable to continue developing this technology.
So, maybe instead of fighting child pornography from this incredibly sneaky angle, U.S. Senators should think about creating a bill that focuses on protecting children from abuse to start with.
While this is only an idea, at least it has the merit of being... right.