EU's 'Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator' Finally Says It: Force Internet Companies To Hand Over Their Crypto Keys
from the just-a-fig-leaf dept
Although calls to ban or backdoor encryption have been made in the past, David Cameron's rather vague threats against crypto clearly mark the start of a new, concerted campaign to weaken online privacy. Thanks to a leaked paper, written by the EU Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator and obtained by Statewatch, we now have a clear statement of what the European authorities really want here (pdf):
Since the Snowden revelations, internet and telecommunications companies have started to use often de-centralized encryption which increasingly makes lawful interception by the relevant national authorities technically difficult or even impossible. The Commission should be invited to
explore rules obliging internet and telecommunications companies operating in the EU to provide under certain conditions as set out in the relevant national laws and in full compliance with fundamental rights access of the relevant national authorities to communications (i.e. share encryption keys).
The set-phrase "in full compliance with fundamental rights" is just a fig leaf: there is no real intention of complying with basic rights here. That this is a just a cynical exploitation of people's concerns in the wake of recent events is shown by the following paragraph from the beginning of the document:
Europe is facing an unprecedented, diverse and serious terrorist threat. The horrific attacks that took place in Paris between 7 and 9 January 2015 were followed by an unprecedented show of unity by millions of citizens in France and across Europe as well as a show of solidarity and political will by
many EU and world leaders. In addition to action from the national governments, citizens are looking to the European Union to provide an ambitious response. Core European values have been attacked, in particular freedom of speech. The EU has to respond with meaningful action. Failure to do so could result in disillusionment of citizens with the EU.
Yes, the millions of European citizens who joined marches in support of liberty and freedom of speech would be bitterly disappointed if the EU didn't react by undermining those self-same core values. Nor is the idea to weaken all encryption in Europe the only deeply troubling proposal in the document. Here's another one:
Consideration should be given to a role for Europol in either flagging or facilitating the flagging of content which breaches the platforms’ own terms and conditions. These often go further than national legislation and can therefore help to reduce the amount of radicalising material available online.’ In
this context, Europol's Check the Web project could be beefed up to allow for monitoring and analysis of social media communication on the internet.
That's a really great idea: get Europe's main law enforcement agency, Europol, spending its valuable time checking out if Internet users are breaching Facebook's terms and conditions, and generally spying on social networks. After all, that's much more important than doing other things like, oh, I don't know, actually trying to catch murderers and criminals....