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EU’s Plan To Mass Surveil Private Chats Has Leaked

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The latest version of the proposed European Parliament (EP) and EU Council regulation to adopt new rules related to combating child sexual abuse has been made available online.

Despite its declared goal, the proposal, which first saw the light of day in May 2022 and is referred to by opponents as “chat control” is in fact a highly divisive draft of legislation that aims to accomplish the stated objective through mass surveillance of citizens’ private communications.

Now, the French site contexte.com has the full text of the newest version of the proposal – yet another controversial undertaking of the current, 6-month Belgian EU presidency. Judging by the leaked document, the key and most contentious components of “chat control” have not been changed.

German EP member (MEP) Patrick Breyer and long-time vocal critic of the proposal said on his blog that the text would be discussed by a law enforcement working party at the Council on Wednesday, with the target date for adoption being sometime in June.

That will happen once any political differences have been smoothed over at the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (“COREPER”).

Commenting on the development, Breyer remarked that the Council’s legal service has also confirmed that the new version “does not change the nature of detection orders.”

“Limiting bulk chat searches to ‘high-risk services’ is meaningless because every communication service is misused also for sharing illegal images and therefore has an imminently high risk of abuse,” the MEP noted of the latest proposal, adding:

“Informing law enforcement only of repeat hits is also meaningless, as falsely flagged beach pictures or consensual sexting rarely involve just a single photo.”

He went on to explain that the upcoming regulation is set up in a way that will result in the end of the privacy of people’s digital communications, since the subject of content searches will be “millions” of chats and photos, including those belonging to persons who have no links to child sexual abuse.

And because the technology proposed to carry out the mass surveillance is unreliable, there are also risks of this content getting leaked.

Another “victim” of the regulation is end-to-end encryption, which Breyer says will be undermined by client-side scanning.

Meanwhile, “Council-side,” those EU member countries that have thus far opposed the regulation are now happy with what this MEP calls “repackaged plans” – meaning that it is highly likely to be adopted there.

Then it will be EP’s turn; but the EP, Breyer observes, is prone to “gradually abandoning its initial position behind closed doors and agreeing to bad and dangerous compromises that fundamentally put our online security at risk.”

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