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Police chiefs want to halt secure end-to-end encryption to enable chat control bulk scanning of all private messages

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32 European police chiefs have issued a joint statement calling for a halt to the introduction of secure end-to-end encryption for direct messages sent via Facebook and Instagram. This step would make telecommunications interception and voluntary chat control content scanning impossible, they argue. Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Patrick Breyer, who is suing Meta over its voluntary chat control scanning scheme, puts it in perspective:

“By attacking secure encryption, the surveillance authorities are not calling for ‘lawful access’, but for an unlawful threat to the security of us all. Just a few weeks ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that generally weakening encryption violates the human right to privacy, especially as there are targeted surveillance alternatives.

Claiming that we cannot be safe without destroying the privacy of digital correspondence is an attack on our constitution, really. The vast majority of electronic communication services, especially European ones, have always respected the secrecy of telecommunications. Keeping our private messages safe from general and unreliable snooping algorithms protects us – including our children’s family pictures. It’s an unproven myth to claim that voluntary chat control contributes significantly to saving children. The British police cite a case of sextorsion, but fail to specify whether the report was triggered by a user or resulted of unreliable chat control scanning. Sextorsion normally becomes known when it is reported by users – there is no need for destroying the digital privacy of correspondence.

Our surveillance authorities seem to panic about the very existence of any safe and private spaces. Have they forgotten that our homes and letters have always been largely safe from spying? Are our homes soon to be made ‘secure by design’ by having to provide a duplicate key to the police? The police have never known as much about us as they do today in the digital age. The Stasi-style wish of total information awareness contradicts the very idea of a democracy in which citizens control the government, not the other way around.”

Background: An EU expert group (“High-Level Group (HLG) on access to data for effective law enforcement”) is currently drafting proposals to undermine secure communications encryption and to reintroduce bulk communications data retention.