The European Commission is dressing up its latest attempt to end encryption under the guise of protection against child sexual abuse material.
The European Commission has proposed legislation that would essentially spell the end of personal privacy online and end-to-end encryption.
While dressed as a method to combat the proliferation of child sexual abuse material online, the proposal would hand tech giants like Meta and Apple access to users’ images and messages, opening the door for far wider reaching surveillance system.
Under the proposal, the Commission has outlined the requirement for private companies to scour their servers for abusive material and report them to relevant authorities. Not only would this leave massive room for error due to the magnitude of data that companies would have to sieve through, but also for wider abuses of privacy with access to all forms of communication.
Allowing any authority access to private communications should be deemed unacceptable but handing that ability to notoriously untrustworthy Big Tech companies is like letting the fox guard the henhouse.
Yet as preposterous as such an idea sounds, it can come as no surprise when looking at just how much influence Big Tech wields inside European institutions. Lobbying is legalised bribery and when it comes to this particular tactic, no sector does it quite like the tech giants.
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Big Tech lobbying continues to increase
Europe’s once proudly strong safeguards on data protection have been gradually eroded precisely by these companies, who have lobbied relentlessly to intrude further and further into the public’s digital space.
This has resulted in a shift of power that now sees these tech giants sway the laws and regulations into their favour, prising power from EU states.
Apple, which will play a prominent role in ‘assisting’ the EU in this latest proposal, being one of the two global mobile operating systems, has increased its lobbying expenditure by 900 percent in less than a decade.
From 700,000 euros spent in 2013 on lobbying EU institutions, that figure reached 7 million in 2021. And from having zero lobbyists with European Parliament accreditation working on the company’s causes in 2013, it now employs eight on a full-time basis.
It is no mere coincidence that this proposal eerily resembles the very plan that Apple sought to implement less than a year ago, before it was struck down due to privacy concerns.
Now it is back, rebranded, and with the support of the European Commission.
Not the first EU attempt to end encryption
The desire from certain sections of European institutions to bring an end to encryption is nothing new. The bloc’s most powerful and influential states, France and Germany, jointly pushed for this under the guise of terrorism prevention in 2016, while an internal draft document from the Council of the European Union outlined plans to do the same on the back of the 2020 Vienna terrorist attack.
Before, it was due to ‘counter-terrorism’ efforts, today it is to prevent ‘child abuse’, tomorrow it will be to combat ‘Russian disinformation’ or ‘COVID-19 sceptics’. But no matter how it is dressed, it will always be to strip citizens of their right to digital privacy, as has long been the objective.
Like many of the Commission’s proposals, what sounds like a well-intended plan on the surface is yet another ruse to further intrude on individual privacy.