WPF opposes censorship bills; supports right to create and use anonymization tools to protect privacy

Stop SOPA & PIPA —- The World Privacy Forum is deeply concerned about the profound, far-reaching privacy consequences of two bills, SOPA and PIPA. The bills have many negative aspects. In terms of the privacy impacts, one of the serious consequences is that the right to create and use anonymization software tools would be essentailly criminalized. The very privacy tools that allowed the Arab Spring to flourish through anonymized activist activity would be in legal jeapordy. This is a highly negative outcome, and is negative enough that WPF strongly opposes these two bills. We are encouraging individuals to use the well-developed EFF SOPA/PIPA action center to learn more and to make a stand.

The US Department of State has been involved in an Internet freedom initiative that encourages the use of Internet tools to encourage freedom and democracy (21st Century Statecraft paper). Many of the ideas were encapsulated in a speech on the topic in 2010 by Secretary of State Clinton.
She wrote:

“In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. One member of this group, Bassem Samir, who is thankfully no longer in prison, is with us today. So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and the human welfare of the world’s population.

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.

The words of the First Amendment to our Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone. Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. Now, at the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the troubles of his day. And years later, one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, worked to have these principles adopted as a cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have provided a lodestar to every succeeding generation, guiding us, galvanizing us, and enabling us to move forward in the face of uncertainty. So as technology hurtles forward, we must think back to that legacy.

We need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles. In accepting the Nobel Prize, President Obama spoke about the need to build a world in which peace rests on the inherent rights and dignities of every individual. And in my speech on human rights at Georgetown a few days later, I talked about how we must find ways to make human rights a reality. Today, we find an urgent need to protect these freedoms on the digital frontiers of the 21st century.” (Remarks on Internet Freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jan. 21, 2010.)

We couldn’t agree more. It is essential that individuals have the freedom to create and use privacy-enhancing software without that activity being criminalized.