(Natural News) The European Commission has introduced to the public a draft law on mandatory chat control.
This chat control law is similar to Apple’s highly controversial “SpyPhone” plans, where the Commission will oblige all providers of email, chat and messaging services to automate the search for suspicious messages and forward them to the police supposedly to combat child pornography.
However, this will require these providers to monitor and scan the communications of citizens even if they are securely encrypted end-to-end. Thus, the new law would undermine the essence of end-to-end encryption and make the European Union (EU) a world leader in the generalized surveillance of whole populations. This could pose a problem when undemocratic regimes enact the same measures.
Dr. Patrick Breyer, a digital rights activist and jurist, commented that the spying attack on private messages and photos by error-prone algorithms is a giant step toward a Chinese-style surveillance state. “Will the next step be for the post office to open and scan all letters?” he asked. (Related: They want national Internet speech regulations so that they can legally censor you into oblivion.)
Breyer also pointed out that organized child porn rings don’t use email or messenger services, but darknet forums. By breaking secure encryption, the European Commission is putting the overall security of private communications and public networks, trade secrets and state secrets at risk to please their short-term surveillance desires.
Opening the door to foreign intelligence services and hackers is completely irresponsible, Breyer said.
Thirty-five organizations worldwide, including the German Lawyers Association, Digitale Gesellschaft and the Committee to Protect Journalists warned against the EU’s chat control law.
A former judge pointed out last year that the warrantless interception of private communications violates the case law of the European Court of Justice.
A poll also showed that 72 percent of citizens oppose the indiscriminate scanning of their private communications. The German government coalition agreement also rejected the measures.
On May 9, Breyer also filed an action for an injunction against the so-called chat control against Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Ireland Limited, at the Kiel District Court.
Chat control deemed by many as a threat to democracy
While it is important to fight the dissemination of child sexual abuse material, the European Commission’s proposal is deemed by many dangerous. The automated search of content on mobile phones and computers can also target private and encrypted communications, such as those on messenger services.
Critics say this form of preemptive mass surveillance not only poses a threat to privacy, cyber security and the freedom of expression, but serves as a danger to democracy in general.
Olivier Onidi, deputy director-general for Home Affairs, said that the proposal is an attempt to include all means of communication in its scope. The actual value added by the proposal would be to cover all forms of communication, including private ones.
The proposal could find support among member states. Slovenia, as the current holder of the Council presidency, has made the fight against child abuse one of its main priorities. According to a Council paper published in September, for the presidency, it is essential to focus on the “digital dimension.”
In this case, the work of investigative authorities would be complicated by end-to-end encryption, so automated approaches to scan content should at least be open for discussion.
If the plans come into action, it will allow intrusion into privacy regardless of the technical implementation of chat control. Each and every message, regardless of suspicion, will be automatically searched, evaluated and in case of a supposed match, reported, not only to the providers but straight to the authorities. (Related: Governments and social media companies are collaborating to censor anyone who would dare to question mainstream media narratives.)
This will inevitably include countless normal, legitimate photos and videos that people send each other. If automatic detection, which is so far an unreliable technology, raises an alarm, the content would have to be checked by humans. Not only would this violate the right to privacy, but open another gateway in which data could possibly be misused.
Ultimately, it could have massive consequences for providers who will be forced to either connect to an existing infrastructure or develop their own solutions to comply, which would play into the hands of larger providers who have the resources to implement the requirements. Those that lack such resources or find the effort too great could withdraw from the EU.
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