EU chat control law would allow scans of encrypted messages

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Kids’ online safety is a big issue in the U.S. and elsewhere. As of now, legislators push laws that seemingly make children safer online, but may actually lead to identity theft (like with age-verification bills) and block LGBTQ and other content (like with the Kids Online Safety Act).Over in the EU, a law is seeking to undermine end-to-end encryption in an attempt to stop CSAM (child sex abuse material). As The Verge reported, the chat control law proposes to scan messages, including ones that are encrypted. End-to-end encryption means that no one, including governments and the messaging platform, can read your messages. They are scrambled so only the sender and receiver can read them.
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Last November, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee voted to exclude mass scanning of encrypted messages, proposals that were in previous versions of the chat control law, which was first introduced in 2022.It seems, however, that the changes have only been in language only. The most recent chat control law would implement an “upload moderation” system of mass scanning of messages, including ones with links, photos, and videos. The proposed law states that end-to-end encryption is necessary for protecting rights, but it goes on to state that “it is crucial that services employing end-to-end encryption do not inadvertently become secure zones where child sexual abuse material can be shared or disseminated without possible consequences,” The Verge pointed out.

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This is contradictory, as scanning technology would subvert such encryption. Because of this, digital rights activists and organizations have released statements opposing chat control. The Center for Democracy and Technology, the Internet Freedom Foundation, Mozilla, and others signed a joint statement calling on the EU Council to “reject all scanning proposals that are inconsistent with the principle of end-to-end encryption.”President of encrypted messaging app Signal, Meredith Whittaker, also released a statement rejecting chat control and stated that language like “upload moderation” is “the same old surveillance with new branding.” On Mastodon, Whittaker said Signal will pull out of the EU if the bill passes.

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Dozens of members of the European Parliament have signed an open letter against the law as well, stating that it would weaken cybersecurity and act as a “blueprint for authoritarian states.”According to Patrick Breyer, a member of the European Parliament, the EU Council will vote on this law on Thursday.

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