Health, Encryption & COVID-19: Keeping people and countries safer online

Online Event, 14 May 2020

Hosted by

This global webinar series featuring world-leading security and technology experts explored how encryption is a critical tool helping people and countries navigate a global health crisis. You could learn about dangerous proposals that threaten our digital security, and how we can encourage governments and the private sector to pursue policies that enhance, strengthen and promote the use of strong encryption practices to protect citizens everywhere. 

Encryption after COVID-19: What’s Coming Up in Asia-Pacific?

Time:AM UTC (11:30 AM IST/4:00 PM AEST)

Nikhil Pahwa, Founder and Publisher, Medianama
Paul Brooks, Chair, Internet Australia
Prashanth Sugathan, Legal Director, Software Freedom Law Centre

Moderator: Rajnesh Singh, Regional Vice President – Asia-Pacific, Internet Society

Summary: In 2019, Australia passed the controversial Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act, granting law enforcement and security agencies power to request for access to encrypted data. In India, the government is proposing that Internet intermediaries, which include social media platforms and apps, actively filter online content and name sources of private messages—both of which involve weakening end-to-end encryption. In this session, experts weighed in on how encryption debates in Asia-Pacific might have changed amidst COVID-19. As new laws undergo scrutiny by courts and independent review bodies, we identified concrete initiatives for the global community to uphold encryption in countries where Internet security is under threat.

European Union:
Online Trust and COVID-19: What’s Next for Encryption in Europe?

Time: 12:30 PM UTC (2:30 PM CET)

Cathrin Bauer-Bulst, Acting Head of Unit, Cybercrime, European Commission DG-HOME
Jens Henrik Jeppesen, Director-General, Center for Democracy and Technology Europe
Klaus Landefeld, Vice Chairman of the Management Board Director Infrastructure & Networks, Eco-Association of the Internet Industry

Moderator: Ceren Unal, Regional Policy Manager – Europe, Internet Society

Summary: With the efforts to curb a global health crisis increasingly pushing our lives online, encryption is more important than ever. It helps us secure our work from home, protects the integrity of information and critical health services, and allows states to quickly respond to the pandemic in a secure manner. While the EU has traditionally been in favour of encryption practices, some member states have recently created or proposed policies or laws that undermine encryption through exceptional access for law enforcement and national security purposes. This panel discussion examined critical role of encryption in navigating a pandemic, and how exceptional access proposals might hinder security, privacy and trust online, while looking into how encryption debate in the EU will be shaped post COVID era and potential challenges that may arise in the upcoming EU legislation on e-privacy and e-evidence.

Five Eyes Countries:
Five-Eyes, Encryption & COVID-19: What’s Changed and What’s Next? 

Time: 4 PM UTC 

Andi Wilson Thompson, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Technology Initiative, New America
Matt Hatfield, Campaigns Director, Open Media
Joseph Cannataci, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy

Moderator: Sheetal Kumar, Senior Programme Lead, Global Partners Digital

Summary: In early March 2020, representatives from the five eyes governments (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States) announced a voluntary set of principles aimed at combating online child sexual exploitation. These principles may have large implications for how the Internet is run, including the use of end-to-end encryption. At the same time, each of these countries is grappling with the impact of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures being put in place. Their citizens and institutions are relying on the Internet and the security provided by encryption in their everyday lives. As these countries emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, how will the debate around encryption and exceptional access look? In this panel, experts from each of the five eyes countries went over this question and more. The panelists also discussed opportunities and strategies for engagement with the Five Eyes ahead of the annual meeting this year.

Health, the Internet & COVID-19: Government Backdoor Access Proposals that Threaten Canadian Health and Security Online

Time: 6 PM UTC (2 PM ET)

Christopher Parsons, Citizen’s Lab
Brenda McPhail, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Christopher Prince, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Moderator: Hosein Badran, Director, Internet Growth and Trust, Internet Society

Summary: While more Canadians are working from home than ever to curb the spread of COVID-19, government efforts could undermine our strongest digital tool to keep people secure online: encryption. Despite the crucial need for digital security to navigate a global health crisis, the debate on whether law enforcement should be able to access encrypted information – and in doing so threatening the security of its users- is going strong in countries including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. This panel examined the shifting global debate on backdoor access to encrypted data, the technical realities of end-to-end encryption and exceptional access, and what it could mean for Canadians security online.

Latin America and The Caribbean:
Encryption and COVID-19 in LAC: Lessons for Data Protection, Trust in the Digital Economy and Protecting the Internet’s Infrastructure

Time: 9 PM UTC

Veridiana Alimonti, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Carlos Affonso de Souza, ITS Rio
Diego R. Canabarro, Senior Regional Policy Manager – LAC, Internet Society

Moderator: Maria Paz Canales, Derechos Digitales

Summary: The ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 means that people in LAC are increasingly moving their work, education and socializing online. But even though millions of citizens rely on encryption to secure these digital interactions on a daily basis, a large part of them is not entirely aware of the complexity of technical, socioeconomic and political dimensions related to the topic. This roundtable explored how encryption had helped keep different stakeholder groups and communities more secure in the wake of COVID-19 and delved into three of those dimensions: privacy & data protection, trust in the digital economy and the protection of Internet’s infrastructure.

This webinar series was livestreamed via and on Internet Society’s Facebook page.