Sunday

20th Sep 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 subscribe 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. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

Podcast

Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens

Commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, would like to win the approval of all EU member states for a new proposal for a common asylum and migration policy - something her predecessors failed to do.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us