Recently, the UK government introduced the Online Safety Bill which asks messaging platforms to weaken E2EE and scan users’ messages for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Responding to this, the Meta-owned instant messaging service WhatsApp even threatened to depart the country if the UK forces to weaken its encryption standards.
Now, Spain has also advocated banning encryption for hundreds of millions of people within the European Union. According to a leaked document shared by Wired, some other EU member states have also supported proposals to scan private messages for illegal content.
Why EU countries want to weaken E2EE
As per the document, a survey was conducted by the European Council among EU member countries to reveal their views on encryption regulation. The document also offered behind-the-scenes opinions of officials on how to craft a law to stop illegal activities like CSAM in Europe. Just like UK’s Online Safety Bill, the EU’s proposed law will also require companies to scan their platforms as well as private messages, to find illegal material.
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WhatsApp has launched Chat Lock, which enables users to add another layer of security to their chats. The feature offers users three ways to lock conversations: face unlock, pin/passcode, and fingerprint, and puts the messages behind their own folder, which can only be accessed via the device
The document represented 20 EU countries and most of them were in favour of some form of mechanism to scan encrypted messages. Spain’s opinion on this law emerged as the most dominant. “Ideally, in our view, it would be desirable to legislatively prevent EU-based service providers from implementing end-to-end encryption,” Spanish representatives said in the document.
What is end-to-end encryption
End-to-end encryption is a communication feature designed to keep messages and their content restricted between the sender and receiver. This system keeps out all other parties, from scammers to law agencies and even the company providing the digital platform. In certain situations, law enforcement advocates propose creating mechanisms through which end-to-end encryption can be bypassed for investigations. However, cryptographers and other experts have argued that this crackdown may weaken the end-to-end encryption system and put users’ privacy at risk.