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We have sent the following letter to all members of the EU Parliament to prevent the adoption of the “ePrivacy Derogation”. This provides that chat messages, video chats and emails will be searched automatically and without any reason for indications of pedosexual content.
This not only violates Articles 7 and 8 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. In our letter, we also explain why the measure is completely unsuitable for combating child abuse and would cause enormous damage to our society. Because, as much as one might hope, an AI is not a miracle machine that can be used to cut down on time-consuming police work.
The first stage of this law, which allows voluntary searches by providers, is to be passed in the European Parliament as early as July 7 / 8, 2020. Later, a reinforcement will ensure that mass surveillance becomes mandatory.
If you want to support our cause, please become a co-signatory of this important letter today!
(See below ...)
ePrivacy Derogation – children’s rights vs EU fundamental rights?
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
Would you be comfortable with the thought that all your letters are being opened on the off chance that they might contain suspicious material? If not, please transfer this conviction to the digital sphere and vote against the abolishment of digital privacy for correspondence as part of the ePrivacy Derogation!
The so-called “e-Privacy Interim Regulation” (2020/0259(COD)) would require online messenger and email service providers to automatically scan private message content in real time for suspicious text and image content using error-prone artificial intelligence. All suspicious cases identified by AI would be automatically disclosed to investigative authorities in the EU – without the individuals concerned knowing about it. This is intended to counter the spread of child pornography on the internet.
We, of course, share the sentiment behind the initiative: children’s rights are a serious matter for which we as a foundation have been campaigning for years. But however well-intentioned it might be, this should not obscure the fatal impacts of the planned remedy:
- The digital privacy of correspondence would effectively be abolished. All communication content would be indiscriminately captured and searched on a massive scale. Self-censorship would immediately become the norm. Legal opinions have shown that such a mass and suspicion-independent screening of private communication content is not compatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
- Baseless suspicions would become the rule. According to the Swiss Federal Office of Police (fedpol), the error rate for automatic message screening is around 86%! For example, harmless holiday snaps or intimate selfies made by young people would lead to private message content being automatically disclosed and the launch of police investigations. More than one third of criminal investigations are already directed against minors.
- Criminals are already finding ways to circumvent surveillance. When privacy is a crime, only criminals have privacy.
- A surveillance infrastructure would be created, which – as we know all too well from experience – would eventually be extended to other areas (“mission creep”). Sooner or later, under the pretext of fighting terror, crime or even the threat of losing power, governments would be tempted to use this tool in other ways.
- Experience has shown: Leaks, hacks, fails and abuse are inevitable. Collections of potential blackmail material would be created. In the past, cases have come to light where employees from investigative authorities and NGOs have themselves been secretly spreading child pornography. This would therefore often achieve the very opposite of what is wanted – the protection of children and fundamental rights.
- Most acts of violence against children happen in secret and are not documented electronically. Prevention is what’s needed. A false “sense of security” helps no one. Targeted and effective law enforcement methods should not be cut back, but expanded.
- Many victims of child abuse and leading providers are strongly opposed to universal search measures – as are 72% of EU citizens. Scanning all private messages is no substitute for solid police work and concrete help for victims of sexual violence. A representative survey in ten EU Member States has shown that 72% of respondents are clearly opposed to automated searches of private messages.
Please, don’t get us wrong here: crimes against children are terrible and demand decisive action! But warrantless surveillance of our communications is totally inappropriate and creates a climate of mistrust in Europe.
We therefore urge you to oppose the bill when it comes before Parliament on July 7 and 8!
Dr. phil. Dr. h.c. Michael Schmidt-Salomon, Spokesman of the Board of the gbs
Peder Iblher, gbs Rapporteur on digital basic rights
PS: For more background information please visit our website https://digitalhumanrights.blog
on 15 Apr 2022
Dear friends of the digital basic rights,
even after the leak of an internal inspection report for the EU commission it remains unclear what exactly the commission is planning regarding #chatcontrol. The repeatedly postponed publication of the bill (now scheduled for May 11) shows that it’s still being worked on. It will depend on this bill if and to what extent the arguments in our "open letter" (dating from Summer 2021) should be modified for this next round.
We are still expecting that the encryption of private chat messages is supposed to be undermined by making it mandatory for app-providers to automatically scan messages on suspicious contents before they are sent. It is open if only messengers or also other services (image hosters,... further
on 06 Aug 2021
As we read today, Apple has decided to search our most private files for indications of child abuse and grooming from now on. First, iClouds will be searched for previously existing material, soon also devices. The search for new material is more difficult, but that is apparently soon to come. (Here, particularly many false positives and blackmail material in foreign hands is to be expected). Also: Parents can be notified if their children exchange nude pictures in iChat messages. For the company, that likes to maintain a privacy-friendly image, this step is a paradigm shift – Pandora's box is being opened.
The proximity in time alone suggests that the legalization of this practice in the EU was an important "go" signal for the company. We... further
on 09 Jul 2021
The ePrivacy derogation was passed this week, as expected, with an 80% majority in the EU Parliament.
Meanwhile, our objection was heard. Patrick Breyer held up our open letter to the camera during his speech and made visible that e-privacy is just like postal secrecy. Members of the Greens and the Left also spoke out clearly against the proposal, while among the Social Democrats the field is mixed.
For a good reason we ask you to continue to promote this signature list:
In this fall, the case will go into the second round!
Because then the obligatory version of this regulation is on the agenda. What up to now MAY be done on a voluntary basis by some providers (like Microsoft Teams, Google etc.), will then become a MUST for all relevant... further