Within the European Union, Spain is the one who defends the most radical theses on end-to-end encryption (E2EE). This is derived from a Council of Europe document leaked to Wired. Of the 20 countries that have been asked, the position of the Spanish government is the closest to weakening encryption where necessary.
An option that is on the table. This possibility has been discussed for years within the European Union, but it had never been raised with as much clarity as last year, when the door was opened to this possibility in order to fight against child pornography. “Abusers hide behind end-to-end encryption,” said Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Most countries are in favor. The document is not the official or definitive position, but it is an internal survey to find out the opinion of the different countries regarding the regulation of encryption. And 15 countries have expressed a stance in favor of scanning private messages for illegal content and stopping the spread of child pornography.
Spain openly requests access to private conversations. Of all, the Spanish response is the most controversial. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska states that it is “imperative that we have access to the data” and “it is equally imperative that we have the ability to analyze it, no matter how large the volume.”
“Ideally, in our opinion, it would be desirable to legislatively prevent EU-based service providers from implementing end-to-end encryption. This is highly controversial, proposing as a solution that encryption with automatic decryption be done on some intermediate server of communication”, states the document.
Spain’s position regarding encryption, according to the leaked document.
Chat Control is far from being a solution. Criticism from organizations in favor of internet rights has not been long in coming. From Xnet they explain that Chat Control, the popular name for the ‘Regulations by which standards are established to prevent and combat the sexual abuse of minors’ (CSAR) can put an end to the secrecy of communications in the European Union.
In his view, this regulation “proposes a technology that is itself a security breach. It raises impossible technology (encrypted technology and at the same time inspectable, invasive and that does not solve the problem of child abuse.”
Is it technically possible? Most countries advocate scanning conversations for child pornography, but are not openly in favor of breaking encryption either. Instead, most aim to apply a technology that scans this type of material on the device itself.
The representative of the Netherlands noted that “there are… technologies that can enable automatic detection of CSAM while leaving end-to-end encryption intact.” A technological solution of which practically nothing is known and many doubt its effectiveness.
Breaking the encryption would be unconstitutional. This is the case of Finland, who in the document point out that the European Commission should offer more information on how it would possibly be technically possible to implement something like this without jeopardizing the security of our communications. Something that would be against what was defended in its own constitution.
As is the case in Spain, where article 18 of the Spanish Constitution states that “the secrecy of communications is guaranteed and, in particular, of postal, telegraphic and telephone communications, except by judicial resolution”.
The EU Regulation does not directly propose to remove encryption, but when the water sounds… The regulation against child abuse itself does not say to eliminate encryption, but for some European officials it is not enough. This is the case of the Swedish Social Democrat Ylva Johansson, in charge of the project or the Spanish rapporteur Javier Zarzalejos, of the EPP.
The leak of this document coincides with the intention of the United Kingdom to implement its ‘Online Safety Bill’. Legislation with an objective similar to that of Europe and that has already turned against all messaging applications.
Image | Ministry of Interior
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