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Capitol building, where Senators are considering the EARN IT Act

Explainers

Defend privacy, oppose the EARN IT Act

March 2nd, 2022

We’re going to lose it with the EARN IT Act. Let us explain.

The Senate is currently considering the Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT), a bill presented as essential to the protection of children from online sexual predators and abuse. Needless to say, we can all agree that children deserve that kind of protection.

The thing is, existing federal, state and local laws already provide that protection. Still, what’s wrong with a little more of a good thing? The problem with EARN IT Act is its corrosive effect on privacy.

Buried within the proposed law is the criminalization of end-to-end encryption, an essential tool for private, secure communication. With encryption essentially banned, internet companies will scan all users’ messages, photos and files for potentially illicit content. Suddenly, private business—accountable to their shareholders, rather than the public—are imbued with surveillance powers. For obvious reasons, that’s a worrisome development.

Set all that aside for a moment and focus on the children, the very people the EARN IT Act is supposed to protect. End-to-end encryption is actually in their interests. Their privacy, their digital record—all of that is vulnerable to bad actors if encryption is legislated into oblivion. The less information about children that’s available online, the better protected they are.

Criminalizing end-to-end encryption would have society-wide ramifications, exposing anyone who uses the internet to make any kind of transaction—that’s all of us—to the risk of data theft. Your privacy is yours. It should be protected. And so should our children. Educate them. Supervise them. Talk with them. And let them maintain their digital anonymity.

We can protect our privacy and our kids, but not with legislation like the EARN IT Act, which pretends to be a shield and acts a paring knife. Write your legislators and tell them we deserve better than the EARN IT Act.

. . .