UN Rapporteur Calls For Protection of Encryption, Anonymity Online


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Prof. David Kaye, has released a new report which underlines the importance of encryption and anonymity in the digital age.

The 18 page report authored by Kaye, discusses issues related to anonymity and encryption online, with the enforcement of legislation and regulations making anonymity tools available to secure human rights defenders and journalist communications being one of them. The report seeks to answer questions, review examples of State practice, and propose recommendations.

The report was prepared with the use of relevant information provided by replies to the questionnaires which the special rapporteur circulated to states. The questionnaires sought for information on the domestic laws, regulations, policies or practices of states. The Special Rapporteur also made use of submissions from non-governmental stakeholders and information from issues arising from an experts meeting which he convened in Geneva in March 2015.

Many corporations and government are now known to go to great deal of lengths to invade the online privacy of individuals; these are worthy of concerns as regards violations of human rights laws.  David Kaye recommends solutions that nations should opt for to establish an environment for individuals to exercise freedom of opinion and expression securely. Kaye claims that using anonymity tools such as Proxies, VPNs and browsers like TOR are one of the most secure methods to stay encrypted and anonymous online. However, many nations are vehemently seeking to combat such anonymity tools.

The report calls for states, nations, corporations and civil society organizations to take actions and campaign towards a world that would open their arms to encryption and the privacy of individuals online.

The report concludes that encryption and anonymity “deserve strong protection” because they “enable individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age.” Kaye also clearly mentions in his report that “States should not restrict encryption and anonymity”. He notes that “blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate,” a reference to standards for human rights law as articulated in the 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.

Kaye has received about a dozen replies from government representatives including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Pamela Hamamoto, who asserted that the United States was committed to firmly supporting “the development and robust adoption of strong encryption.” On June 17, Kaye will formally present his report to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.