European police forces protest against end-to-end encryption in instant messaging

At a meeting in London last week, 32 directors of European police forces issued a joint statement on April 21 expressing concern about end-to-end encryption, which is gradually being used in many messaging applications. “Companies can no longer respond effectively to relevant authorities, They wrote. And they cannot identify or report illegal activity on their sites.

According to the National Crime Agency, users are at risk

The declaration was signed by 27 EU member states, the United Kingdom and Norway. Swiss, Iceland and Liechtenstein. During the meeting, Graeme Bigger, Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA), the British agency that fights organized crime, clarified: “Encryption is very effective, protecting users against a wide range of crimes. But brutal and increasingly widespread deployment (…), without sufficient consideration of public safety, puts users at risk.

Last December, Meta announced the default generalization of end-to-end encryption for messages and calls on Messenger. This means that only the sender and receiver can access the content of the messages without consulting the meta. The following week, the Menlo Park company announced the technology's upcoming arrival on Instagram. This feature is already available on WhatsApp since 2016.

Do not send reports for illegal content

Officials in various European countries fear that sites will no longer be able to detect illegal content and therefore be unable to send reports to the police. And this, even if an arrest warrant is issued. The NCA has particularly emphasized in recent years, “Tech companies like Meta acted responsibly by early reporting suspected cases of child sexual abuse”.

The NCA estimates that end-to-end encryption will enable 92% of reports from Facebook, and 85% of those from Instagram. European police also fear increased difficulty in combating illegal arms and smuggling and drug trafficking.

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Europe is facing this problem head on


“Technology companies have a social responsibility to create a safe environment where law enforcement and justice can do their jobs.”, said Catherine de Bolle, Executive Director of Europol. The Joint Declaration, however, did not specify solutions that could be adopted by technical institutions, recommending the establishment of an institution. “Safety by Design” through sites.

The European Council took up the issue in 2020. It then adopted a resolution on encryption. “Competent authorities should be able to access data in a lawful and targeted manner, in full respect of fundamental rights and relevant data protection laws, while ensuring cyber security”. Last April, the European Union held consultations with 20 member states. 15 of them were in favor of scanning protected messages on messaging services such as WhatsApp or Signal for child pornography.

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