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Fast-Tracked EU Vote Threatens Online Privacy with New “Chat Control” Law

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Bad rules are only made better if they are also opt-in (that is, a user is not automatically included, but has to explicitly consent to them).

But the European Union (EU) looks like it’s “reinventing” the meaning and purpose of an opt-in: when it comes to its child sexual abuse regulation, CSAR, a vote is coming up that would block users who refuse to opt-in from sending photos, videos, and links.

According to a leak of minutes just published by the German site Netzpolitik, the vote on what opponents call “chat control” – and lambast as really a set of mass surveillance rules masquerading as a way to improve children’s safety online – is set to take place as soon as June 19.

That is apparently much sooner than those keeping a close eye on the process of adoption of the regulation would have expected.

Due to its nature, the EU is habitually a slow-moving, gargantuan bureaucracy, but it seems that when it comes to pushing censorship and mass surveillance, the bloc finds a way to expedite things.

Netzpolitik’s reporting suggests that the EU’s centralized Brussels institutions are succeeding in getting all their ducks in a row, i.e., breaking not only encryption (via “chat control”) – but also resistance from some member countries, like France.

The minutes from the meeting dedicated to the current version of the draft state that France is now “significantly more positive” where “chat-control is concerned.”

Others, like Poland, would still like to see the final regulation “limited to suspicious users only, and expressed concerns about the consent model,” says Netzpolitik.

But it seems the vote on a Belgian proposal, presented as a “compromise,” is now expected to happen much sooner than previously thought.

The CSAR proposal’s “chat control” segment mandates accessing encrypted communications as the authorities look for what may qualify as content related to child abuse.

The strong criticism of such a rule stems not only from the danger of undermining encryption but also the inaccuracy and ultimate inefficiency regarding the stated goal – just as innocent people’s privacy is seriously jeopardized.

And there’s the legal angle, too: the EU’s own legal service last year “described chat control as illegal and warned that courts could overturn the planned law,” the report notes.

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