Chat control: EU attempt to bulk search private messages and destroy encryption

According to a document leaked by netzpolitik.org, the Belgian Council Presidency, led by conservative Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden, proposes minor changes to the controversial EU Commission’s Chat Control 2.0 proposal (officially “child sexual abuse regulation”) in order to secure a majority among EU governments. The proposed “new approach” will be discussed on Friday in a Council working group and on Monday by the EU interior ministers.

Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament and most vocal opponent of chat control Patrick Breyer criticises:

“Now that the extension of voluntary chat control 1.0 has been agreed, EU Commissioner ‘Big Sister’ Johansson and her network are immediately go back to making general mass monitoring of our private messages mandatory and destroying secure encryption of our chats.

Verlinden’s claim that her proposal was ‘more targeted’ than the Commission’s is a brazen lie. Nothing is targeted about it, in the meaning of the European Court of Justice. In reality, the proposal again aims to impose on communications services the unreliable automated mass monitoring of private chats of citizens who are not even remotely connected to child sexual abuse. This destruction of the digital privacy of correspondence has unanimously and repeatedly been rejected by independent legal experts as likely illegal and subject to annulment in court. The proposed untargeted scanning of ‘parts’ of a service has also long been been officially rejected by the EU Council’s own legal service. Law enforcement paranoia about ‘threats’ and ‘risks’ does not justify deploying unreliable suspicion machines to search and expose the private and intimate communications of millions of law-abiding citizens.

Verlinden’s claim that her proposal would protect cyber security and encrypted data also constitutes disinformation. In reality, secure end-to-end encryption would be destroyed as a result of installing chat scanning technology on our private devices (so-called client-side scanning). Just a fortnight ago, the European Court of Human Rights banned such general weakening of secure end-to-end encryption because encryption protects us all from data theft and fraud. Secure encryption saves lives, the Belgian initiative jeopardises them.

With their minimal amendments, the intransigent Belgian hardliners are ignoring the alternative and much more effective measures proposed by the European Parliament to protect children: Security by design obligations for communications services, cleaning the open Internet, removal obligations – none of this is part of the Belgian initiative.

This latest attack on digital privacy of correspondence and secure encryption is doomed to fail both politically and legally. Likely Verlinden doesn’t even have her own government’s backing. By clinging to chat control mass surveillance, Verlinden will achieve nothing at all to better protect our children. Victims of abuse deserve politicians who are able to protect children effectively, in line with fundamental rights and in a court-proof way.”

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Clora Pepper