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Chat control: EU Council plans death blow to digital privacy of correspondence and secure encryption

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

In the dispute over plans to search all private messages and photos (#ChatControl) for suspicious content, a proposal by the Spanish presidency has been leaked that ambassadors will discuss on Thursday and is intended to secure a majority for the proposed #ChatControl regulation at the end of the month.

Pirate Party MEP and lawyer Patrick Breyer, who is co-negotiating the bill in the European Parliament, has read the proposal and warns:

“The lip service paid to end-to-end encryption is a mere smokescreen. Communication services like WhatsApp or Signal would still have to turn our smartphones into error-prone scanners and bugs (so-called client-side scanning). Nobody would be able to rely on the subsequent encryption of ‘unsuspicious’ messages.

“What the EU governments want to adopt on 28 September means: Apart from ineffective network blocking and search engine censorship, the proposed chat control threatens to destroy digital privacy of correspondence and secure encryption. Scanning personal cloud storage would result in the mass surveillance of private photos. Mandatory age verification for communications services would end anonymous communication. Appstore censorship for young people would be a kind of digital house arrest for teenagers. The proposal does not include the overdue obligation on law enforcement agencies to report and remove known abusive material on the Internet, nor does it provide for Europe-wide standards for effective prevention measures, victim support and counselling and effective criminal investigations.

“This Big Brother attack on our mobile phones, private messages and photos with the help of error-prone algorithms is a giant step towards a Chinese-style surveillance state. Chat control is like the post office opening and scanning all letters – ineffective and illegal. Even the most intimate nude photos and sex chats can suddenly end up with company personnel or the police. Those who destroy the digital secrecy of letters destroy trust. We all depend on the security and confidentiality of private communication: People in need, victims of abuse, children, the economy and also state authorities.”