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Leaked Docs Show EU Wants Mass Surveillance Of Messages, Photos, and To Mandate Online Age Verification

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A leaked European Union Council document shows that the bloc’s legislative arm wants to implement mass surveillance of all private messages and introduce mandatory age verification, starting September 28.

This means that the Spanish presidency intends to quickly make the contested proposed legislation, sometimes referred to as “chat control” by critics, into law. As soon as on Thursday, member-countries’ ambassadors are set to meet to provide a majority needed to pass the draft.

German MEP Patrick Breyer, who is one of the vocal critics of the bill and also has a role of co-negotiating it in parliament, has reacted to the news by warning that the proposal provides nothing but “a smokescreen” when it addresses the issue of end-to-end encryption.

According to Breyer, who is a lawyer and represents the Pirate Party, a wide range of messaging platforms, from WhatsApp to Signal, would have to carry out client-side scanning, which, according to him, means turning people’s phones into “error-prone scanners.”

Despite the “lip service” paid to encryption, Breyer believes that the future law could spell the end of secure encryption and therefore private communication, in addition to what he calls “ineffective network blocking and search engine censorship.”

Considering that one of the provisions of the bill is cloud storage scanning for abusive material – combating which more effectively is the EU’s key stated purpose behind the proposal – the consequence would be mass surveillance of private photos, Breyer is convinced.

What the legislation doesn’t include, and what he suggests would be the right way to go about the problem, is making law enforcement do their job better by reporting such material, as well as establishing standards applicable across the EU that would deal with prevention, support, and counseling of victims, and, “effective criminal investigations.”

As for age verification, which would become mandatory for communications services, this MEP sees it as yet another way to do away with anonymous communication.

“Chinese-style surveillance state” is the sum of how Breyer sees the effects of the incoming law, at the core of which will be what he refers to as “Big Brother attack on our mobile phones, private messages and photos with the help of error-prone algorithms.”

“Chat control is like the post office opening and scanning all letters – ineffective and illegal. Even the most intimate nude photos and sex chats can suddenly end up with company personnel or the police,” the MEP said in a press release, concluding, “We all depend on the security and confidentiality of private communication: People in need, victims of abuse, children, the economy and also state authorities.”

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