Answer to the UN about crypto and human rights

Below you’ll find DFRI:s submission to the United Nations (UN) request for information in preparation for an upcoming report on the legal frameworks governing cryptography, anonymity and its relationship to human rights. This report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June, 2015.

Dear Sir,
This letter is a response from DFRI (Föreningen för digitala fri- och rättigheter, a non-profit Swedish civil society organization working on digital rights), to your request for views with regards to encryption and how it relates to fundamental human rights. While strong
cryptography is a requirement for commercial activities, this is not what DFRI or this letter focuses on.

DFRI provides strong anonymous Internet access by being one of the largest Tor (an encrypted anonymization network) operators. This access is provided for two major reasons; to better protect the end users communication from mass surveillance and to help end users in totalitarian states to circumvent censorship.

The right to use cryptography and to be anonymous is a fundamental requirement for democracy, as freedom of speech cannot be guaranteed if there is a constant fear of repercussions. It is furthermore a requirement for the continued existences of investigative journalism due to the fact that whistleblowing often have weak legal protection.

DFRI spends a significant amount of resources to educate end users on how to encrypt their traffic. Our experience from this has taught us that end users encrypt and anonymize their traffic for many reasons. Here are but a few;

  • Journalists use it to perform their jobs without revealing who their sources are
  • Domestic abuse victims use it to hide from their aggressors
  • People suffering from medical conditions use it to learn more of their ailments
  • Members of the labor force use it in communications with their unions
  • Law enforcement uses it to investigate suspected criminals
  • DFRI also helps activists in other countries with the investigation of censorship technologies and their deployment. This would not be possible without strong encryption and anonymity, as activists sometimes take great personal risks in aiding with these investigations.

We would also like to add that being a provider of anonymous Internet services does not result in a large amount of abuse cases. Indeed, DFRI has a level of abuse that per Mbit/s is lower or comparable to non-anonymized Internet services.

On behalf of DFRI
Andreas Jonsson