A new draft law is expected to be published on the 11 May 2022, dubbed “chat control” by the European Union commission, this draft will allow lawmakers to seek AI-based monitoring, bulk intercepting and scanning of all messages and images directly on users devices.
Numerous civil society organisations, 35 in total, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the German Bar Association, the European Digital Rights (EDRi), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have all been raising awareness about this invasive legislation.
In a letter addressed to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other high-ranking EU officials, the groups write:
Tackling the online dissemination of child sexual abuse and exploitation material (CSAM) is an important part of the broader global fight to protect young people from sexual abuse and exploitation. In particular, this fight requires a comprehensive approach by governments and companies to prevent such egregious crimes before they happen.
In the context of the upcoming EU legislation to effectively tackle child abuse, we urge the Commission to ensure that people’s private communications do not become collateral damage of the forthcoming legislation.
People under attack depend on privacy-preserving technologies to communicate with journalists, to coordinate protection for their families, and to fight for their safety and rights.
Equally in peacetime, people’s ability to communicate without unjustified intrusion — whether online or offline — is vital for their rights and freedoms, as well as for the development of vibrant and secure communities, civil society and industry.
Experts agree that there is no way to give law enforcement exceptional access to communications that are encrypted end-to-end without creating vulnerabilities that criminals and repressive governments can exploit.
As the recent Pegasus scandals have shown, the unfettered tapping of people’s devices poses huge risks to journalists, politicians, human rights defenders and the preservation of democratic society.
In a separate statement, European Digital Rights says that previous legislation along the same lines “would (and did) allow companies to spy on everyone's communications.”
MEP Patrick Breyer, who represents the German Pirate Party described the EU's legislation as a “Big Brother attack on our mobile phones by error-prone denunciation machines,” and likened it to a “first step in the direction of a Chinese-style surveillance state.”
“Will the next step be for the post office to open and scan all letters?” Breyer wondered. “Indiscriminately searching all correspondence violates fundamental rights and will not protect children.”