Today, the EU’s interior ministers are meeting to discuss, among other things, the planned chat control. Therefore, I would like to briefly summarize what this is all about and why we should all be interested. I will try to make it short 🙂
→ What is chat control?
The EU plans to force operators of messengers and providers of email and storage services to completely monitor all communication within their apps, servers and programs without cause and furthermore to report suspicious content to the authorities. The reason behind is the issue of child pornography, which is to be combated through this regulation.
This results in unprecedented mass surveillance of our communication though. All of our private messages are supposed to be reviewed by an AI. When it strikes, employees of corporations and police officers look at our private communication hereafter.
→ What exactly is to be monitored and how does it work practically?
The planned law obliges all service providers in the EU to monitor their content. This affects all messengers, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Telegram. Messengers with end-2-end encryption will be required to build a technical loophole into their services. In addition, all email services such as Gmail or GMX will be affected, as well as chat providers such as Slack and RocketChat.
In fact, all of our digital communication is planned to be monitored. This includes all kinds of content, i.e. not only text, but also images, speech etc., even digital telephony. In short, the smartphone will become a completely monitored device. In practice the EU plans the use of an AI for mass control. If it gives an alarm, an employee of a public agency will first look at our pictures and texts. If the content is labeled as suspicious, it will be forwarded to a central investigative agency in The Hague, which in return will contact local police forces.
→ Why is the EU planning this surveillance?
It’s about combating child pornography. This really sucks, of course, and I can’t think of anything I’d want to fight more urgently, either. However, the reason is unfortunately secondary. You could also take terrorism or other horrors. It is a fact that such challenges cannot be fought with such things as mass surveillance. It has rather been proven that such measures would lead to an indescribable flood of data for the investigators. But they already have too much data, that is not their problem. Investigative authorities are often understaffed and, above all, have insufficient technical means to evaluate data. It’s not me saying this, but many investigators themselves. The question remains, why does the EU intend to do this? I don’t know the exact answer, but basically only one remains: The lure of total knowledge about us, the citizens of the EU.
→ Okay, but I have nothing to hide.
The topic of child pornography vs. blanket surveillance is a very difficult one when you take a closer look.
Think of vacation pictures with your children on the beach. Or chats between teens in love. Or an intimate voice message exchanged by a couple.
Anything like that will probably cause the AI to report it. Sometimes just a naked knee in a picture is probably enough, like right now in the summer.
That is when anyone can very quickly end up in the suspicion files in The Hague or at the police, and who knows when and how they will get out of there.
Besides, no one can guarantee us that the data will not be used for other things as well. Why, for example, should the state not query relevant data for the tax office? Create a movement log of a suspected burglar? No problem. This series can be endlessly continued.
→ What can I do about it?
Tell your friends and colleagues about it and use social media. Spread the word! The biggest danger is when such things are decided secretly and quietly and eventually become facts.
Then you can sign a petition here.
You could also write to your member of the national parliament.
→ And the bottom line?
What the EU Commission is planning here is unprecedented mass surveillance of all EU citizens. All content of our communication and our memories, whether on a device or in the cloud, will be affected. Primarily the authorities benefit from that, who will then know all of our most intimate secrets and will be able to track our movements. Unfortunately it does nothing regarding the fight against child pronography.
The EU wants to build a system here that the Stasi and the KGB always dreamed of. It is never good when a state or a company or even the EU knows too much about us. It is strange that these efforts are coming from Brussels, of all places, because at the same time they are working hard on issues like data transparency and limiting the power of digital corporations. However, Brussels does not compromise on its own interests. It’s like 1984.