Although there is an alarming uptick in surveillance powers across the globe, a proposal at the European Parliament is seeking to ban law enforcement, government agencies from going into encrypted messages such as WhatsApp messages.
The Committee of Civil Liberties of Justice and Home Affairs is attempting to ban any “backdoor” activity done on electronic devices such as decryption, monitoring such communication and reverse engineering. This proposal is based on Article 7 from the EU’s Charter Fundamental Rights, which promises the “confidentiality and safety” of EU citizens’ electronic communications needs to be “guaranteed.”
“The providers of electronic communications services shall ensure that there is sufficient protection in place against unauthorised access or alterations to the electronic communications data and that the confidentiality and safety of the transmission are also guaranteed by the nature of the means of transmission used or by state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption of the electronic communications data,” states the proposal.
This can prove problematic since there are literally two sides of this issue. On one hand, this proposal will not sit well with most EU countries, particularly Britain, considering the Investigatory Powers Act along with the Brexit will make this ban all the more unlikely.
On the other hand, groups like the UK privacy charity Privacy International doesn’t think the proposal went far enough. Privacy International’s legal officer Tomaso Falchetta had explained that Privacy hopes to see tech companies pre-place privacy protective settings in the devices, to prevent others from accessing that information.
However, some EU members have argued that these encrypted online devices can be safe havens for terrorists, considering that the governments, and the companies that made them cannot read them.
Regardless, the proposal will soon head to the EU Council, where it will be reviewed by other members of the European Council. The European Union Proposals have to be approved by the MEPS and reviewed by the European Council before the amendment can pass.