End-To-End Encryption’s Central Role In Modern Self Defense

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A number of course-altering US Supreme Court decisions last month—including the reversal of a constitutional right to abortion and the overturning of a century-old limit on certain firearms permits—have activists and average Americans around the country anticipating the fallout for rights and privacy as abortion “trigger laws,” expanded access to concealed carry permits, and other regulations are expected to take effect in some states. And as people seeking abortions scramble to protect their digital privacy and researchers plumb the relationship between abortion speech and tech regulations, encryption proponents have a clear message: Access to end-to-end encrypted services in the US is more important than ever.

Studies, including those commissioned by tech giants like Meta, have repeatedly and definitively shown that access to encrypted communications is a human rights issue in the digital age. End-to-end encryption makes your messages, phone calls, and video chats unintelligible everywhere except on the devices involved in the conversations, so snoops and interlopers can’t access what you’re saying—and neither can the company that offers the platform. As the legal climate in the US evolves, people who once thought they had nothing to hide may realize that era is now over.

“There are plenty of people in the US for whom it has always been true that the state wasn’t really helping them and was mostly harming them,” says Riana Pfefferkorn, a research

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