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Leak: EU interior ministers want to exempt themselves from chat control bulk scanning of private messages

According to the latest draft text of the controversial EU Child Sexual Abuse Regulation proposal leaked by the French news organisation Contexte, EU interior ministers want to exempt professional accounts of staff of intelligence agencies, police and military from the envisaged scanning of chats and messages (Article 1 (2a)). The regulation should also not apply to ‘confidential information’ such as professional secrets (Article 1 (2b)). The EU governments reject the idea that the new EU Child Protection Centre should support them in the prevention of child sexual abuse and develop best practices for prevention initiatives (Article 43(8)), writes Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer.

The fact that the EU interior ministers want to exempt police officers, soldiers, intelligence officers and even themselves from chat control scanning proves that they know exactly just how unreliable and dangerous the snooping algorithms are that they want to unleash on us citizens. They seem to fear that even military secrets without any link to child sexual abuse could end up in the US at any time.

The confidentiality of government communications is certainly important, but the same must apply to the protection of business and of course citizens communications, including the spaces that victims of abuse themselves need for secure exchanges and therapy. We know that most of the chats leaked by today’s voluntary snooping algorithms are of no relevance to the police, for example family photos or consensual sexting. It is outrageous that the EU interior ministers themselves do not want to suffer the consequences of the destruction of digital privacy of correspondence and secure encryption that they are imposing on us.

The promise that professional secrets should not be affected by chat control is a lie cast in paragraphs. No provider and no algorithm can know or determine whether a chat is being conducted with doctors, therapists, lawyers, defence lawyers, etc. so as to exempt it from chat control. Chat control inevitably threatens to leak intimate photos sent for medical purposes and trial documents sent for defending abuse victims.

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It makes a mockery of the official goal of child protection that the EU interior ministers reject the development of best practices for preventing child sexual abuse. It couldn’t be clearer that the aim of this bill is China-style mass surveillance and not better protecting our children.

Real child protection would require a systematic scientific evaluation and implementation of multidisciplinary prevention programmes, as well as Europe-wide standards and guidelines for criminal investigations into child abuse, including the identification of victims and the necessary technical means. None of this is planned by the EU interior ministers.

The EU governments want to adopt the chat control bill by the beginning of June.

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