What do we think about the potential criminal uses of Berty?
An eminently important question that we are regularly asked: What is our reasoning, and our approach to the potential use of the Berty protocol in criminal cases?
Thanks to @jilleJr for opening this question on our GitHub ; this is an excellent opportunity to explain our position.
The radical privacy dilemma
At the Berty Core team, we believe that the right to secure and private communication is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all without restriction. We also believe that privacy is not a business model and cannot be a commercial service. That explains why we are an NGO.
In the age of modern communications, we believe it is essential to build a tool to protect citizens from mass surveillance and censorship. This may seem like an unnecessary gimmick in some countries, but it is a matter of life and death in others.
Overall, Berty seeks to protect citizens from commercial companies that plunder conversation data to enrich commercial databases, from governments that seek to monitor or censor discussions. We provide a tool on which we are not judges and do not take sides, just as the mailman does not validate the content of a mail.
Obviously, we have no desire or intention to become a tool for illegal use. You have to understand is that the Berty protocol is part of an open protocol approach, as TCP/IP can be, where the user is entirely responsible for its use.
As the leading developers, we’re designing a community-driven service and focusing on preventing anyone from obtaining control, including ourselves.
We do not know who or even how many people are using the protocol, and that’s fine! Keeping too much power of administration would be a significant security flaw. We are creating a new alphabet, accessible to anyone without any form of restriction, which is free from all forms of pressure that commercial information systems are currently under. Putting pressure on the NGO Berty or its core team won’t permit taking down the protocol. That’s one of the reasons that makes Berty different.
You can write poetry, or insult people with a pen. We cannot blame the pen manufacturer.
The fight against criminal activities
We are very sensitive to terrorism or crime, and we think that mass surveillance is not an effective operational response.
Many governments claim that mass surveillance is the ultimate solution to terrorism. Many events, including the attacks of the last few years in France, showed us that the answer was not as effective and overestimated.
“Our politicians tell us they need stronger spying powers to catch ‘terrorists’. But there is no evidence that mass surveillance will help. In the years leading up to the Paris attacks, the security services identified suspects as potential threats and then excluded them from their lists. No amount of personal data, however large, could have changed that. Moreover, by monitoring populations in this way, states are turning their backs on long-standing legal principles. They treat all their citizens as suspected criminals and consider every detail of our private lives suspect.” Amnesty International
We think that it would be much more efficient for intelligence services around the world to do more targeted fieldwork and work on infiltrating these networks in depth.
And we don’t like the growing tendency of governments to think that “everyone is potentially guilty”, which allows them to create an overpowering security arsenal, against citizens.
If we had to make an extreme choice for Berty, we would prefer an extreme freedom. However, this does not mean that we are not considering other possibilities. For example, what the DAO’s are doing is quite promising. We haven’t found (yet) an alternative or a robust and resilient model that fits with Berty state of mind. If you have ideas, please share them with us.
Liberty vs Safety
Since our creation, our team has obviously been thinking about these issues, and we regularly reinforce our conviction when we observe all the laws evolving towards generalized surveillance and censorship. This radically new positioning of the Berty protocol is encouraged every day by recent announcements, and our watch encourages us to continue on this path.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin