EU Lawmakers Warned Against Dangers Of Scanning Private Messages To Detect Child Abuse

The head of the popular messaging platform Signal has warned lawmakers in the EU from scanning private messages belonging to citizens as a new legislative proposal in the region was brought forward.

Lawmakers feel the move can assist in detecting child abuse taking place online that usually goes unnoticed, thanks to end-to-end encryption practices that prevent anyone else from knowing what is sent through the secure messaging system.

But that can end up doing more harm than good, Signal’s President warned as it paves the way to more dangers of the online world as users will no longer remain guarded.

Meredith Whittaker released a blog post on this front that delineated more on this matter and how implementation of these proposals means ridding E2E encryption and that makes users vulnerable to the great online threats with serious implications going beyond the European region.

The EC rolled out another proposal on this front so that mass scanning can take the place of apps rolling out private messaging services to counteract the promotion of child abuse and other explicit material. This was done in the summer of 2022 and the latest move seems to be another reinforcement of just that.

Today, there is a stronger push to have member states take part in the move to have platforms that are encrypted to stay within the scope of this new law.

Amongst the most recent proposal on this front, providers of apps were told to download and operate tech for upload moderation purposes.

Such technologies were said to entail moderation plans which highlighted more on this front and would be curated to detect before this transmission more material that was explicit in nature.

In May, we saw another revised proposal that shed light on how important it was for apps to add consent for scanning of E2E encryption texts so that CSAM material would be detected online.

Anyone who felt to opt-out from this sort of scanning would be stopped from making use of the features and this would downgrade the messaging experience to only text and audio.

The statement from Whittaker really plays with the plan from the Council and many security experts have long been speaking about how such moves could really worsen strong encryption that adds support to communications that are supposed to remain confidential.

She emphasized how there was nothing else to understand here except for the fact that mandating mass scanning would undermine encryption and have serious consequences.

She added how vulnerabilities included on this front are never beneficial and can be exploited by a host of hackers and hostile actors as it gets rid of the protective barrier and puts a lot of people at risk.

Even the data protection supervisor for the EU has opted to show concern on this front, adding how such plans are a serious threat to the values of freedom that arise with a democratic state. But we do see how a lot of pressure for scanning of encrypted texts does arise from law enforcement agencies who feel that is the only way for them to highlight illegal activity taking place.

European police chiefs feel they can better identify anyone and everyone taking part in illegal acts and therefore bring them to justice if they get access to E2E encryption messages. So as you can see, we are in a bit of a dilemma here.

Looks like the pros and cons of E2E encryption must be evaluated before such legislative proposals can come into play. What do you think?

Image: DIW-Aigen

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