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Signal President Criticizes EU’s Proposed "Upload Moderation" for Encrypted Chats

Signal President Criticizes EU’s Proposed "Upload Moderation" for Encrypted Chats

Jun 18, 2024

Signal President Criticizes EU’s Proposed "Upload Moderation" for Encrypted Chats

Meredith Whittaker, the president of the encrypted messaging service Signal, has spoken out against a legislative proposal by the European Union. The contested proposal suggests the implementation of "upload moderation" to scan encrypted chats. Critics argue that this undermines the very essence of end-to-end encryption.

The original "Chat Control" law was proposed by the EU Commission in mid-2022, but was met with resistance and rejected by the EU Parliament committee in November. Despite this, a revised draft has been put forward that maintains the core objective of mass scanning private communications. This new draft has been rebranded from "client-side scanning" to "upload moderation," a move that Whittaker vehemently opposes.

In a June 17 statement Whittaker stated, “Instead of using the previous term ‘client-side scanning,’ they’ve rebranded and are now calling it ‘upload moderation.’ Some are claiming that ‘upload moderation’ does not undermine encryption because it happens before your message or video is encrypted. This is untrue.” She further stressed the importance of maintaining end-to-end encryption to protect privacy against "unprecedented state and corporate surveillance."

According to TechCrunch, Whittaker's concerns extend to the core infrastructure of web security, indicating that the proposal would create "a dangerous vulnerability...with global implications well beyond Europe." The revised proposal would potentially degrade the experience of users who choose not to consent to the scanning of their messages, limiting them to basic text and audio messaging.

Despite reassurances in the draft text that aim to preserve end-to-end encryption, Whittaker and other critics perceive these as insufficient to prevent the vulnerability that such "upload moderation" would introduce. The EU’s own data protection supervisor has echoed these concerns, highlighting the threat to democratic values in a free and open society.

The controversy also involves the European Council, which, despite opposition, continues to push for encrypted platforms to be included in the scanning law. Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer has criticized the proposal, and law enforcement agencies have been lobbying for "technical solutions" that would still identify illegal activities without specifying how to balance this with encryption security.

As EU lawmaking involves negotiations between the Council, the Parliament, and the Commission, the future of the "Chat Control" law remains uncertain. With changing parliamentary dynamics following recent EU elections, the outcome of the legislative process is still to be determined.

Signal's Meredith Whittaker has emerged as a vocal critic of the proposal, emphasizing the need to protect end-to-end encryption as a cornerstone of privacy in the digital age. The situation is evolving, with the potential for significant implications for privacy, security, and how encrypted communication services operate within the EU.

TechCrunch Article

Signal Statement


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