This bill to protect children may also put your privacy at risk (The Daily Charge, 3/10/2020)
The Daily Charge
There's a new bill circulating around congress.
It claims to crack down exploiting children online.
But critics say, it's just the government's latest attempt to chip away at our privacy.
This is the Daily Charge.
It's Tuesday, March 10th.
I'm Roger Chang and with me via Skype is after day.
Alfred, you've got a nice explainer on the earnings act.
And you got to break this down for me because it is extremely dense.
First off, what does the earnings act propose?
Yeah, you're right.
It is extremely dense.
But what the E.A.R.
ACT is proposing is basically making tech companies earn section 230 protections.
Now, section 230 is a part of the communications decency act in 1996 basically protects platforms from being sued, or content that's posted on their platform.
So if I'm in a restaurant and somebody leaves a bad review for me On Yelp, I can't sue Yelp for that I would have to sue the person that actually posted that.
So it's a big part of what allows tech platforms to grow and also what allows for free expression online.
So that is what they're proposing.
They're saying you have to follow these standards to protecting children online.
Or you do not get this protection that would basically keep your website alive.
And that is that's kind of a deal breaker protect us right?
If you don't have section 230 protection, you're basically just it's open game in terms of losses like they basically companies could not function without this protection right?
Yeah, if you think about it, think about how many posts are on Facebook a day?
And I think there's something along the lines of 1 billion hours of video is being watched on YouTube every day.
Now think about how many lawsuits could come from that?
And there's a very good chance they could lose these lawsuits, and they would Be shut down immediately.
Or if you're a new website looking to start out, and you all of a sudden are liable for all of these, because you don't meet the standards.
It's not really much of a guideline or best practices, so much as it is basically If you don't do this, you're done.
So let's take us through what are those guidelines and what exactly is the government proposing in this instance?
So the guidelines are not established by this bill.
The guidelines Are going to be established by a commission established by this bill where the three of the members are the heads of the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Homeland Security.
That is where the issue really comes in for a lot of privacy and security experts, because the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department have spent Many years basically trying to get rid of end to end encryption, saying that it prevents them from Patrick criminals that prevents them from being able to solve investigations.
And in the past the Justice Department had this battle with the FBI over Encryption for terrorists and then before that they were saying, you know, drug dealers are using this online and we can't like catch like these drug kingpins because of that So, those arguments clearly didn't work because we're still a forbid and encryption and tech [INAUDIBLE] to those pressures.
But now, with the earn it act, the idea is they're going at this from the angle of child exploitation, which is a much harder political angle to fight against, right?
Like, what legislator is gonna go out there and say, no, I actually support.
The exploitation of children online.
Yeah, that's what's fascinating to me, is because there's this different goal and the goal is never outright stated, right?
It's ultimately what they wanna do is to insert a government backdoor into Facebook, Apple various systems, but it's never outright ever said and interesting like the press conferences have been scheduled.
The kind of public statements I've made have all been about exploitation of children online and how to prevent that.
And it's interesting the way it's spun because, right, you're right politically, you can't be on the other side of that argument, right, there just doesn't make any sense.
You can never win that argument by saying, yeah, I'm for that.
It just doesn't work, right?
Yeah, and I think that's kind of why so many tech policy experts have been looking at this and thinking this actually does have a pretty good chance of make any momentum on Capital Hill.
And I think they're right to point out the security risk and the privacy risk here, because encryption is what protects your communications, not only from being viewed by people who have stolen your phone or potential hackers, but also Government regimes and the idea that the government has been trying to propose is, they can't do these investigations when things are encrypted and they want lawful access, which is basically give us a special key that only police officers or only investigators can use to Messages.
But that kind of falls short when you look at all these government data leaks that have happened, and cybersecurity tools that have been stolen from the NSA and the CIA.
Where these are, were also tools that were only meant to be used by the government, and might have been used by malicious hackers because it's public.
Well, the government says trust us, we'll make sure this backdoor is safe and only used by us.
It's hard to buy the argument given.
There have been a lot of examples where that hasn't been the case, right?
Yeah and that it's definitely like the biggest argument against lawful access.
I had a hearing about this in December where Apple had basically told Congress look like we can't make a key just for the good guys.
Like that's not how that works.
So it'll be interesting to see where this goes on Capitol Hill.
There's definitely a lot of noise about it from privacy and security advocates.
But also there are organizations like the National Center for Missing Exploited Children backing this bill.
And I think like seven out of the 10 senators that are backing this bill are on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Which, we'll be having a hearing on this bill tomorrow.
Right, and it's important to note, this is not a partisan issue.
There are senators and representatives on both sides, both parties that support this bill.
I believe it's four Republicans and six Democrats that are sponsoring this bill.
Right, so it's a rare instance where we do have these two parties who agree on an issue.
I guess what's interesting to me is I mean beyond up on the spinning like, it's interesting that they're taking this tack now because I think back in 2016 we saw this before, right when Apple versus the FBI were There was a big battle there.
FBI wanted some sort of way to get into the iPhone, Apple refused.
It's really kind of what when it crystallised Apple's kind of big pitch on security and privacy as a feature in its products and clearly in the court of public opinion The need for security and end to end encryption for the services kind of won out.
So it's just that's why it's interesting to me that they're taking this different tack and really going after, or making this an issue about protecting children as opposed to.
Yeah getting, you know, having backdoor access for the good guys quote unquote.
Yeah, we started seeing that angle.
Around the time Facebook said that they were going to start encrypting their messaging services
as you Facebook is responsible for reporting about 16.8 million cases back in 2018 to the National Center for Missing Exploited Children.
So the idea was that if you're going to encrypt these messages, that is a big way that child predators
Get in touch with kids and you know, groom them into, you know, meeting them later on and things like that.
And if you're encrypting these messages, Facebook, you're not gonna be getting these kinds of signals and you're not gonna be able to stop these pedophiles using Facebook Messenger, right?
So just around the time when I saw like this, you front and this new angle from the Justice Department and I think the fallacy surrounding that
From what tech policy experts have told me is that, yes, it's true that Facebook gives like 18 like 16 to 18 million reports like per year, but the difference would be that Not much of that is actually enforced.
So they're like they'll give them these reports but like this center is not like a law enforcement agency.
They, they just give that to the cops after and it's very like it's not clear how much of that is actually Acted on there was a New York Times report about you know, Facebook not being able to handle all of these child exploitation posts are ramping up like a severe amount and how much they've reported.
But think the problem still comes down to the federal government.
But doesn't have the funding or resources to actually tackle that.
So even if, you know they provided a backdoor to encryption here, or follow these guidelines, whatever they might be, I think it still boils down to the question of does this actually protect children and, you know, unless you have investigators and resources that you know, can actually use that kind of access We missed something here today, we couldn't catch the live show and have a burning question, leave us a voicemail at (862)-250-5173.
If you want to learn more about today's topics can check the links to all today's stories in the description below for the daily charge, I'm Roger Chang, thanks for joining us.