The European Council document on the decryption of online messages has reportedly been sent to individual European governments, and even responses have already arrived. It is in the form of a survey. Its task is to probe the attitude of EU member states to legalizing the decryption of private messages. In addition to a series of questions, the survey includes unofficial (so far) suggestions and recommendations from European officials on how to create an effective law that would stop the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in Europe.
Everything would be copied
Entrepreneurs at the helm of technology companies would be legally obliged to scan content appearing on their platforms, such as Signal or WhatsApp. Ylvy Johansson, the EU Commissioner responsible for home affairs, even suggests introducing a legal obligation to track and record private messages. It is therefore hardly surprising that such an idea met with indignation and strong opposition from cryptographers, representatives of technology companies and privacy advocates with scientific titles. End-to-end encryption is one of the cornerstones of the confidentiality and privacy of Internet communications. It’s like letting postal workers open letters and parcels and read, select and archive those they don’t like for some reason. We, here in Poland, know such thinking. Not so distant are the times when the caretakers of apartment blocks in the People’s Republic of Poland, ennoblingly called “hosts of the house”, opened letters that came from abroad to tenants. They checked whether there was any anti-socialist content in them, and by the way, maybe hard currency. The document of April 12, 2023, which the editors of Wired reached, contains, among other things, the position of members of the police working group on law enforcement of the Council of the European Union. Yes, there is such an authority. The purpose of this EU body is to monitoring the views of law enforcement authorities on EU legislation. The document asking for answers to many questions (including any comments) has already been sent to twenty EU countries. The questions boil down to whether individual countries see end-to-end encryption as an obstacle to their work to combat child sexual abuse. Put simply: do they want the right to declassify private correspondence.
Who is looking at the correspondence?
Wired says the first responses from governments have already arrived. Most of the representatives of the twenty countries interviewed said they were in favor of some form of scanning encrypted messages – if the appropriate technology could be found. Strong support for the scanning of private correspondence (“in search of materials related to child sexual abuse”) was to be expressed by, among others: Denmark, Ireland, Belgium, Spain, Cyprus, Hungary, and to a limited extent (surveillance of the sender’s computer) also the Netherlands. Italy is against, Estonia has reservations. For the time being, the Germans do not want to debate the idea, which, according to them, has serious defects in the technological layer. The Polish side supposedly has a position similar to Spain, opting for mechanisms thanks to which encryption could be repealed by court order and for granting parents the right to decrypt their children’s correspondence. We leave any comments on the new EU law being developed to our readers, without doubt in the accuracy of the observations which inevitably arise in relation to such actions.