Regulators Are ‘Hurting Their Own Country’ in Seeking Encryption Backdoors: Nym CEO

In the face of ongoing debate among global leaders on how to balance protecting citizens from scams, exploitation, and government infrastructure from cyberattacks while at the same time protecting an individual’s right to privacy, Nym CEO Harry Halpin believes there needs to be a balance between privacy, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance but said out of touch politicians are standing in the way.

“Ultimately, the regulatory environment is often run by, to be very honest, a gerontocracy of people that really don’t understand technology very well,” Halpin said.

Halpin highlighted recent efforts in the UK to mandate companies include a “backdoor” in their encryption technologies under the pretense of safeguarding minors from online predators— something Halpin called dangerous.

On Tuesday, UK officials urged Meta not to institute end-to-end encryption without “safety measures to protect children from sexual abuse,” according to a Reuters report after the UK Parliament passed the Online Safety Bill.

While UK policymakers said the bill would protect minors online, the non-profit digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation said the Online Safety Bill would lead to “a much more censored, locked-down internet for British users” and empower the government to undermine privacy for not only the UK but internet users worldwide.

“The real danger is that by basically pushing for these, what appear to be simple solutions, such as backdoors or no privacy, they’re hurting their own country,” Halpin told Decrypt in an interview at Messari Mainnet, adding that making encryption illegal will lead to people and organizations that rely on encryption to leave the country.

“It’s important to note that privacy and regulatory compliance are something you can actually do together,” Halpin said.

Founded in 2019, Switzerland-based Nym Technologies launched its privacy-focused decentralized identity platform, Nym, in 2020 on the Cosmos blockchain. As Halpin explained, the idea for Nym came out of the outrage by the European Commission and the European Union about NSA surveillance after the revelations of famed whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In 2021, activist and whistleblower Chelsea Manning joined Nym as a security consultant to help build out Nym’s privacy technology, which currently consists of over 600 nodes.

“We think that most of the regulators will eventually understand that in order to have both safety for their citizens, cybersecurity, and national security for their country, they’re going to have to support privacy enhancing technologies,” Halpin said.

Halpin said privacy is crucial for cryptocurrency to enter the mainstream, have “traditional” financial use cases, and defend human rights. Looking to the future, Halpin envisioned a new era of privacy once policymakers understood the need.

“There’s a whole generation of privacy-enhanced apps that can be built,” Halpin said. “It will take time for the government to understand this,” Halpin said.

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