Now that the EU plans for mass screening of private communications and undermining secure end-to-end encryption (chat control 2.0) have been put on ice due to a lack of majority among EU governments, the EU Commission is proposing an extension of the existing voluntary chat control regulation, which is currently set to expire on 3 August 2024, by two years. The planned fast-track procedure has not yet been communicated by the EU Commission. For Pirate Party lawmaker and most prominent opponent of chat control Patrick Breyer, who is also his group’s lead negotiator on the file, the proposal is an admission of failure:
“Proposing to continue working with the status quo is an admission of failure of the scandalous methods of Home Affairs Commissioner ‘Big Sister’ Ylva Johansson to implement authoritarian chat control in Europe.” Due to her unprecedented, radical attack on digital privacy and secure encryption, ‘big sister’ Johansson is directly responsible for the complete failure to achieve any better protection of our children from abuse. Johansson’s personal crusade for and ideological obsession with mass surveillance is blocking truly effective preventive measures, for example by requiring online services to be secure by design. Victims of child sexual abuse deserve politicians who are capable of protecting children in an effective, politically and legally feasible way – this is cross-party consensus in the EU Parliament.”
At the same time, Breyer criticises the instrument of voluntary chat control: “The Commission’s report on the supposed effectiveness of voluntary chat control has been overdue for months. No surprise: the voluntary mass surveillance of our private communications by US services such as Meta, Google or Microsoft makes no significant contribution to rescuing abuse victims or convicting producers of child sexual abuse material. It instead criminalises thousands of minors, overburdens law enforcement and opens the door to arbitrary private justice by internet companies.”
“The regulation on voluntary chat control is both unnecessary and violates fundamental rights: Social networks as hosting services do not need the regulation to screen public posts. And the error-prone NCMEC reports that result from the indiscriminate screening of private communications by Zuckerberg’s Meta will end as a result of the announced introduction of end-to-end encryption by the end of the year. The legal opinion of a former ECJ judge finds that voluntary chat control violates fundamental rights. A victim of child sexual abuse and I are taking legal action against this.”
The EU Commission intends to inform the justice and interior ministers on 5 December 2023.