In response to the call for submissions of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression regarding the use of encryption and anonymity in digital communications, the Citizen Lab and independent researcher Collin Anderson have submitted a joint analysis, entitled “The need for democratization of digital security solutions to ensure the right to freedom of expression.” The submission explores the essential role of digital security tools, particularly encryption and anonymity software, in protecting the rights to freedom of expression and privacy of civil society actors, many of which are subject to politically-motivated digital surveillance and censorship.

As an Appendix to our analysis, we include a chart on the relationship between civil society requirements for effective and secure digital communications, and the use of encryption or anonymity tools. This table is not exhaustive and should be considered a first attempt at elaborating on the types of information security risks posed to freedom of expression and privacy.

Properly implemented and non-backdoored encryption can reduce exposure to certain forms of mass surveillance and provide users the opportunity to remain in control of their information despite efforts to compromise it, including interception and hacking. However, this analysis also demonstrates that encryption is not a panacea for the diversity of physical and digital threats that at-risk individuals face on a daily basis.

We look forward to further developing this resource and encourage members of the technical community, civil society, journalists, and others to critique the form and content of the Appendix.

Read the full analysis [PDF].