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Chat control in the EU Parliament today, in court tomorrow

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

The EU Committee on Internal Affairs today gave the green light for an extension of the controversial chat control regulation permitting US internet companies to automatically search all private messages for suspected content. A motion to reject the proposal was only supported by the Pirates, Greens, Left and a part of Renew, but was rejected by a large majority. If the EU Parliament as a whole gives the green light in a plenary vote next week, the Parliament wants to reach an agreement with the Council before the end of February.

Tomorrow, the Kiel Regional Court will hear the case brought by the most prominent critic of chat control, MEP Patrick Breyer from the Pirate Party. Breyer is suing Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, which is responsible for 80% of the leaked chats and private photos. Meta has promised in court to stop chat control in direct messages on Facebook and Instagram and to introduce secure end-to-end encryption, but this promise has not yet been honoured.

Plaintiff Patrick Breyer comments:

“This regulation allows for untargeted, general and indiscriminate searches of private messages by US big tech companies (e.g. Facebook Messenger, GMail). Former ECJ judge Colneric has confirmed this violates fundamental rights. There are two court challenges against the chat control 1.0 regulation pending in Germany, including by a victim of child sexual abuse. The European Data Protection Supervisor now also warns the “Regulation does not contain effective safeguards against general and indiscriminate monitoring of private communications” and “recommends not to adopt the Proposal until the necessary safeguards are integrated”. The compromises on the table do not achieve this.

Strategically, instead of buying Commission and Council time for building a majority for making indiscriminate chat control scanning mandatory, the European Parliament should refuse to extend the indiscriminate regime and offer Council exclusively the targeted regime that was adopted last autumn nearly unanimously. If we extend indiscriminate and general chat control 1.0 now, no matter by how long, this will only be the first extension and indiscriminate searches in our personal messages and photos by US Big Tech will de facto become the permanent solution.

Instead of taking up the EU Parliament’s new approach for more effective and court-proof child protection without chat control mass surveillance, EU Commissioner Johansson is incorrigibly insisting in the destruction of digital privacy of correspondence, playing for time and hoping to manipulate critical EU states into agreeing by running infamous campaigns and spreading misinformation. This approach has gotten us into deadlock politically, failing children and abuse victims alike. We should clearly reject this strategy and insist on finding better solutions than mass surveillance, as proposed by the European Parliament last year.”

The Kiel Regional Court will hear Breyer’s case tomorrow in a public hearing starting at 09:30 (case no. 13 O 40/23).