Until a few weeks ago there was a serious risk of finding ourselves in Europe with legislation – nicknamed Chat Control 2.0 – which would have opened the door to large-scale monitoring, without any prior authorization from the courts, of private communications of approximately 500 million citizens.
Only following the strong protests raised by many parties, the mobilization of hundreds of experts and consultants on the subject privacy and protection of personal data, Chat Control 2.0 initially suffered a setback and was then “archived” by order of the European Parliament.
Goodbye to the law that would have eliminated the effectiveness of end-to-end encryption
The bill, strongly desired and supported by the Swedish Ylva Johansson, placed the power to access the contents of private messages exchanged through any instant messaging platform and any email service.
How? In the event of approval of the new provisions, the operators of messaging services would have been obliged to activate a content scanning of users locally, directly on their personal devices. Using mechanisms based onartificial intelligence, the platforms should have reported any messages with suspicious content to specialized personnel. THE report sent would then trigger police investigations.
If this sounds like science fiction to you, know that the government backdoor approved in the United Kingdom as an integral part of theOnline Safety Bill it works very similarly. In the article, photos and private messages forwarded to the European authorities, we explored the functioning of the technology behind Chat Control 2.0.
Fortunately, several Member States – listening to the critical voices and analyzes of many researchers – have stood aside, avoiding support for a law that would have trampled on rights fundamentals of each individual. Europe had also raised strong doubts by defining the generalized control activities as “disproportionate” which would have translated into an unacceptable tool for the mass surveillance.
The new position of the European Parliament which now prohibits any type of monitoring
At the end of October 2023, the European Parliament finally and officially revised its position declaring its willingness to safeguard secrecy of communications digital and not to accept any generalized chat control plan. This type of operation, confirms the European Parliament, violates fundamental rights.
Not only. The previous regulation provided for the possibility of activating a automated control, on a voluntary basis (therefore at the choice of individual suppliers), of the content of the chats and messages. Some providers had already signed up.
Now the European Parliament states that these activities, carried out by some companies based in the USA, cannot be considered admissible either. Indeed, they will soon be set aside and returned illegitimate.
Finally, the surveillance of specific subjects and the targeted control of their communications will only be permitted following a judicial warrant and limited to people or groups of people suspected of being linked to the dissemination of child pornography material.
The European Ombudsman calls on the European Commission to name the supporters of Chat Control 2.0
L’Irish Council for Civil Liberties reports today that the European Ombudsmanan institutional figure responsible for acting as an independent intermediary between citizens and public institutions by intervening directly in disputes, established that the European Commission has offered an example of “mismanagement” not sharing the names of the “experts” who collaborated in drafting the Chat Control 2.0 bill.
“The Commission’s failure to identify the list of experts as falling within the scope of the complainant’s request for public access constitutes maladministration“, we read in the conclusions of the Ombudsman’s decision.
Whole (formerly Tutanota), Mullvad and many other service providers who deal with protect privacy of users, have repeatedly remarked that behind Chat Control 2.0 there were billion-dollar interests of many companies dedicated to the development of solutions, based on artificial intelligence, for the automated scanning of contents. Tuta mentioned names and surnames and recently reiterated the concept after the European Parliament’s decisive position.
Patrick Breyer, a well-known German politician committed to the defense of digital rights, MEP and member of the Pirate Party, has decided to break the deadlock by publishing in preview the names that the Ombudsman asked the Commission to share. Needless to say, Tuta hit the nail on the head.