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EU „chat control“ proposal: Germany takes the lead in defending confidentiality of communications

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

In a leaked response to the EU Commission dated 10 June, the German government insists that proposed EU „chat control“ legislation to automatically search all private chats, messages, and emails for suspicious content be brought in line with „constitutional standards of protection for private and confidential communication“. The statement opposes „general monitoring measures and measures for the scanning of private communications“ which have been proposed by the European Commission to search for child sexual exploitation material and „child pornography“. The proposal involving searching of communications and cloud storage, network blocking, mandatory age verification and blocking of minors from app stores is being criticised by rights groups and industry, but also by the German Child Protection Association DKSB.

While thanking the Commission for the proposal and welcoming it as an „important step towards fighting child sexual abuse“, Germany‘s response insists that the confidentiality of communications „must be protected“. „According to [Germany]’s coalition treaty secrecy of communication, a high level of data protection, a high level of Cybersecurity as well as universal end-to-end-encryption is essential for [Germany]. The [Germany] coalition treaty opposes general monitoring measures and measures for the scanning of private communications. [Germany] is reviewing the draft proposal in the light of the coalition treaty. For [Germany] it is important that regulation fighting against and preventing the dissemination of child sexual abuse material is in line with our constitutional standards of protection for private and confidential communication.“

N.B.: A former judge with the European Court of Justice explained in 2021 that screening all private messages violates the fundamental rights to respect for privacy, to data protection and to freedom of expression.

The German government asks 61 questions for the Commission to answer. For example they question whether providers would at all be able to avoid being ordered to search all private messages („detection order“), whether such indiscriminate scanning would be needed for the mandatory risk assessment, and how many false positive disclosures were to be expected. „Can the technology be designed to differentiate between pictures of children in a normal/ not abusive setting (e.g. at the beach) and CSAM? Can text analysis software differentiate a legitimate conversation between adults (parents, relatives, teachers, sport coaches, friends etc) and children from a grooming situation?“

„Germany is taking the lead in defending confidentiality and security online against the EU‘s unprecedented big brother chat control proposal“, comments German Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Patrick Breyer. „Now other governments must speak out to stop this giant step towards a Chinese-style surveillance state. Chat control is like the post office opening and scanning all letters – ineffective and illegal.“

Breyer has been running a dedicated website on the proposal