Tuesday

28th Jan 2020

EU wants internet firms to hand over encryption keys

  • The Snowden revelations led to a surge in self-encryption (Photo: linksfraktion)

A top EU official wants internet and telecommunication companies to hand over encryption keys to police and spy agencies as part of a wider crackdown on terrorism.

The EU’s counter-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove, in a document leaked by London-based civil liberties group Statewatch, says the European Commission should come up with rules that require the firms to help national governments snoop on possible suspects.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

“Since the Snowden revelations, internet and telecommunications companies have started to use often de-centralised encryption which increasingly makes lawful interception by the relevant national authorities technically difficult or even impossible,” notes de Kerchove in the document.

Edward Snowden is a former US intelligence contractor who leaked files on how the US and UK intercept vast amounts of private data in the name of security.

The de Kerchove proposal joins similar recent calls made by the US and UK governments to weaken or ban certain forms of encryption.

UK prime minister David Cameron, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, said British intelligence agencies should have the legal ability to break the encrypted communications.

His plea was later joined by Obama who said post-Snowden encryption technologies was making it more difficult for spy agencies to crack suspect communications.

“If we find evidence of a terrorist plot … and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can’t penetrate that, that’s a problem,” the US leader said.

Fears are mounting such proposals could force companies to introduce backdoor entries that would allow governments to pierce encrypted emails and smartphone message apps.

But critics warn that tech-savvy criminals can also exploit backdoors, leaving users more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

“Instead of protecting citizens, it will actually endanger citizens’ net security and trample fundamental rights to data protection and privacy," said German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht in a statement.

The US National Intelligence Council, in one of the documents leaked by Snowden, itself notes that strong encryption is the best defence against industrial espionage and online attacks from Russian and Chinese gangs.

Meanwhile, the de Kerchove paper goes further.

Last April, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice scrapped the EU data retention directive. But Kerchove wants the European Commission to come up with a new proposal.

He also wants a new Internet monitoring unit set up inside the EU police agency, Europol.

The unit would be tasked to comb the web for any illegal content and alert IT companies to remove it.

Kerchove suggests the police agency should also better align itself with the EU’s intelligence analysis centre, IntCen.

Opinion

Innovative lessons across the Atlantic

Europe has its own Internet success stories like Skype, Snapchat and Spotify. But are they given the right atmosphere to grow and prosper?

News in Brief

  1. Cases of coronavirus in France and Germany
  2. Report: EU court seeks authority on post-Brexit deal
  3. Slovenian PM resigns, calls snap election
  4. Merkel wants EU-Balkan talks agreement by March
  5. Germany: UN sanctions to enforce Libya ceasefire
  6. Irish PM: UK weaker than EU in trade talks
  7. Report warns of challenges under new EU telecom rules
  8. EU countries to evacuate citizens from virus-hit Wuhan in China

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. 'Brexit is not going to go away,' warns EU's Barnier
  2. Belgian spy services launch internal clear-up
  3. US and UK in war of words over Huwaei
  4. How Slovakia's far-right might pull off an election victory
  5. Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values
  6. Salvini down, but not out in Italy regional poll
  7. Brexit finally happens - the UK leaves the EU This WEEK
  8. Why is Netherlands so far behind on renewables?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us