In Fresh Blow to Online Privacy, EU Seizes on Vienna Attack to Enact Long-Desired Ban on Encryption

If the EU is successful, users will no longer enjoy protection from the prying eyes of government and criminals on popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal.

By Alan Macleod and cross-posted from Mint Press News.

The European Union is rushing through new legislation to get rid of end to end digital encryption. This would mean the end of privacy for users of popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal.

A European Council draft resolution on encryption quietly published on Friday afternoon lays out the EU’s Orwellian position in detail. “The European Union fully supports the development, implementation and use of strong encryption,” it states, “Encryption is a necessary means of protecting fundamental rights and the digital security of governments, industry and society.” Yet in the very next sentence it insists that “At the same time, the European Union needs to ensure the ability of competent authorities” to “exercise their lawful powers, both online and offline.” These “competent authorities” (a phrase occurring throughout the document) refer to law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities.

“Protecting the privacy and security of communications through encryption and at the same time upholding the possibility for competent authorities in the area of security and criminal justice to lawfully access relevant data for legitimate, clearly defined purposes in fighting serious and/or organized crimes and terrorism, including in the digital world, are extremely important,” it concludes. Thus, the EU’s position is that its citizens should be able to hide their data from criminals, but not from the government or its various spying agencies.

The official justification for these new laws, Austrian public service broadcaster Österreichischer Rundfunk reports, is the Vienna terrorist attack of November 2, which left five people dead and 23 injured. However, it notes, the EU has long dreamed of pushing through legislation which lets it surveil its population. In June, for instance, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johannson gave a speech outlining what must be done to win the fight against child trafficking and abuse. “We must also deal with encryption. Military grade encryption that’s easy to use but impossible to break makes paedophiles invisible and hides evidence of their crimes from police,” she insisted. “It’s our obligation to protect children. We must do what is necessary,” she added…

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