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EU Council Delays Vote on Chat Control Regulation Amid Privacy Concerns

EU Council Delays Vote on Chat Control Regulation Amid Privacy Concerns

Jun 20, 2024

EU Council Delays Vote on Chat Control Regulation Amid Privacy Concerns

The EU Council's vote on the proposed chat control regulation aimed at "combating child sexual abuse," has been postponed due to the lack of a qualified majority. The proposed regulation, which has raised alarm among privacy advocates, would allow for the scanning of private messages and potentially undermine secure encryption. The decision to delay was revealed just ahead of the scheduled vote, highlighting ongoing divisions among EU member states on digital privacy issues.

Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer, a vocal opponent of the regulation, expressed his relief and gratitude to those who opposed the measure. "The fact that we have prevented the Orwellian chat control for the time being should be celebrated," Breyer stated in a blog post. He called the delay a "huge success in defense of digital privacy of correspondence."

Patrick Breyer

Breyer outlined his concerns with the proposed legislation, emphasizing the need for a new approach that focuses on preventative measures rather than mass surveillance. He called for fundamental revisions to the draft regulation, including the protection of secure encryption and the right to communicate anonymously, while opposing app censorship and digital restrictions for young people.

An EU diplomat from the Belgian presidency confirmed to Politico that the vote was withdrawn because "the required qualified majority would just not be met." The postponement is reported to be indefinite, with upcoming meetings unlikely to secure the needed majority.

The current Belgian Council presidency, which is set to end on June 30, had proposed that messaging apps scan pictures and links uploaded by users, with those refusing the policy being blocked from sending such content. However, starting July 1, Hungary will assume the Council Presidency and has indicated in its program a commitment to continue negotiations on chat control.

While EU countries work to reach a consensus on the matter, they will also need to engage in negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Commission to finalize the law. The European Parliament has already adopted a more privacy-conscious version of the law in November 2023.

The proposed regulation has been met with skepticism by various stakeholders, including child protection organizations, abuse victims, and privacy advocates. The latest proposal would have asked users to consent to the scanning of their private communications, with refusal leading to restrictions on sharing images and videos. Despite assurances on encryption, services would be required to implement monitoring functions before data transmission.

This news unfolds against the backdrop of a May 24 meeting where the Council’s Legal Service raised concerns about mass monitoring without suspicion being a violation of fundamental rights. Additionally, a report by Der SPIEGEL on June 16 revealed that most chats voluntarily leaked by US-based tech companies lacked criminal relevance.

Patrick Breyer Blog Post

Politico Article


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