Saturday 01 April 2023

Proposed rules to tackle online abuse threaten privacy, critics say


Plans by the European Commission to require tech firms to tackle the online sexual abuse of children would constitute a serious breach of privacy for all EU citizens, critics have told

Under the new proposed law, which will be voted on shortly, chat services, hosting providers and other tech platforms would be obliged to scan users’ message for child pornography or other signs of child abuse.

End-to-end encryption, which means only the sender and receiver can see the message, now makes the spread of online child abuse more difficult to detect, the European Commission has said.

Encryption, while ‘essential for cybersecurity and the fundamental human rights for privacy and freedom of expression’ also provides a safe haven for abusers, the EC said.

It has proposed so-called client-side scanning which compares known images or texts with the contents of platform users’ shared and encrypted messages.

The proposal is weakening online protection when using services like Whatsapp, Telegram and Signal, Rejo Zenger of Digital freedom movement Bits of Freedom told

‘That increases the risk of images ending up in the wrong hands. By making these platforms more unsafe the commission is making the dangers for the group they want to protect bigger instead of smaller,’ he said.

Law and technology lecturer Sarah Eskens said the plan would also endanger the work of journalists and lawyers. ‘They have to be sure their contacts are secure,’ she said.

The foundation Defence for Children is in favour of the proposed rules but said ‘guarantees’ for checking images would have to be built in.

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