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“Destruction of digital privacy of correspondence”: lawsuit filed against chat control

Freedom, democracy and transparency Nicht kategorisiert Press releases

Yesterday, Member of the European Parliament and digital freedom fighter Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) filed an action for an injunction against the so-called chat control against Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms Ireland Limited at Kiel District Court. As a user of “Facebook Messenger”, Breyer is suing against the suspicionless automated search of private chat histories and photos. While the automated searches of personal messages and chats is so far only practised by major US providers, the EU Commission is to propose tomorrow to make this mandatory for all providers of e-mail, messenger and chat services.

Plaintiff Patrick Breyer comments:

“This Big Brother attack by unleashing error-prone algorithms on our cell phones, private messages and photos is a giant step toward a Chinese-style surveillance state. Chat control is like the post office opening and scanning all letters – ineffective and illegal. I will not stand by idly  and watch the dismantelling of the fundamental right to digital privacy of correspondence. I will now involve the judiciary.

With chat control in place even the most intimate nude photos and sex chats can suddenly end up with company personnel or the police. Destroying the digital secrecy of correspondence is destroying trust. We all depend on the security and confidentiality of private communication: People in need, victims of abuse, children, the economy and also government authorities.

Organized child porn rings don’t use e-mail or messenger services, but rather secret self-operated forums. With its plans for chat control, the EU Commission is putting the general security of our private communications and public networks, business secrets and state secrets at risk out of short-term surveillance desires. What we need is removals instead of snooping!”

At Breyer’s request, Europol had previously admitted not to report known CSEM for deletion.

Breyer’s lawyer Prof. Dr. Ralph Wagner explains:

“While EU politicians on the one hand claim to protect us from assaults by Facebook, Google and Co., they are at the same time commissioning these same companies to screen and monitor all our communications. The fact that the European Court of Justice (and the courts of many EU member states) has already prohibited such total surveillance on several occasions is simply brushed aside. Then, unfortunately, the only option is to go back to the courts.

Whoever is serious about data protection, with the least bureaucratic burden possible, and wants to protect civil liberties, must not screen all of our communications and then also commission Facebook to do the same.”

Tomorrow, the EU Commission will publicly present its draft EU law on mandatory chat control. The law would require all providers of email, messenger and chat services to conduct mass chat checks and would undermine secure end-to-end encryption.

EDRi has criticised chat control as the “inevitable result of such technologies” and stresses these “would be unthinkable for those that are wrongly accused. The German Child Protection Association has also denounced the EU Commission’s plan to scan private communications via messenger or email without any reason as disproportionate and ineffective. Instead, it says, that the majority of child pornography material is shared via platforms and forums. What is needed “above all is the expansion of human and technical resources at law enforcement agencies, more visible police presence on the net, more state reporting offices, and the decriminalisation of the dissemination of self-generated material among young people.”

Breyer’s information page on chat control