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EU-Deal on Chatcontrol: Indiscriminate analysis of all private communications contents becomes law

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EU Council and Parliament agreed tonight to allow providers to automatically search all personal electronic mail and messages of each citizen for presumed child pornography or child grooming (so-called chatcontrol or e-privacy derogation). Suspected users will be reported to the police and their communications disclosed. Shadow rapporteur

Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party, Greens/EFA group):

„This unprecedented deal means all of our private e-mails and messages will be subjected to privatised real-time mass surveillance using error-prone incrimination machines inflicting devastating collateral damage on users, children and victims alike. Countless innocent citizens will come under false suspicion of having committed a crime, under-agers will see self-generated nudes (sexting) fall in wrong hands, abuse victims will loose safe channels for counselling. This agreement sets a terrible precedent and is a result of a campaign of disinformation and moral blackmailing. Unleashing such denunciation machines is ineffective, illegal and irresponsible. It’s using totalitarian methods in a democracy.”

Breyer points to a legal assessment by a former Court of Justice judge according to which indiscriminate chatcontrol violates fundamental rights. Earlier this week he released a poll according to which 72% of Europeans oppose having their correspondence subjected to general screening.

Tonight’s political agreement was possible after a majority of Parliament negotiators gave up most of the few limitations the Civil Liberties Committee had requested last year:

  • the agreement now allows for “systematic filtering and scanning of text in communications” in search of “child grooming”
  • using error-prone “artificial intelligence” to search unknown images and videos for possibly illegal content will be permitted
  • there will be no maximum error rate applicable to search algorithms, nor will “artificial intelligence” systems require prior authorization by data protection authorities
  • correspondence with doctors, psychologists, lawyers etc. covered by professional secrecy will not be exempted from monitoring
  • despite error rates of up to 86% according to police statistics, providers may automatically report “known material” to the police without human verification
  • police will not be required publish statistics on the number of false reports and the number of users prosecuted as a result of chatcontrol
  • providers will not need to notify users they report to the police

The Commission is preparing follow-up legislation to make chatcontrol mandatory for all providers, potentially including services that are so fare safely end-to-end encrypted. So far the process is used by US providers only. Abuse victim Alexander Hanff has been criticising chatcontrol arguing „it will not stop children from being abused, it will simply push the abuse further underground, make it more and more difficult to detect and ultimately lead to more children being abused as the end result.“

Dossier on chatcontrol



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