Brussels, 06/07/2021 – Today, the European Parliament approved the ePrivacy Derogation, allowing providers of e-mail and messaging services to automatically search all personal messages of each citizen for presumed suspect content and report suspected cases to the police. The European Pirates Delegation in the Greens/EFA group strongly condemns this automated mass surveillance, which effectively means the end of privacy in digital correspondence. Pirate Party MEPs plan to take legal action.
In today’s vote, 537 Members of the European Parliament approved Chatcontrol, with 133 voting against and 20 abstentions. According to police data, in the vast majority of cases, innocent citizens come under suspicion of having committed an offence due to unreliable processes. In a recent representative poll, 72% of EU citizens opposed general monitoring of their messages. While providers will initially have a choice to search or not to search communications, follow-up legislation, expected in autumn, is to oblige all communications service providers to indiscriminate screening.
Breyer: “This harms children rather than protecting them”
German Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Patrick Breyer, shadow rapporteur on the legislative proposal, comments:
*“The adoption of the first ever EU regulation on mass surveillance is a sad day for all those who rely on free and confidential communications and advice, including abuse victims and press sources. The regulation deals a death blow to the confidentiality of digital correspondence. It is a general breach of the dam to permit indiscriminate surveillance of private spaces by corporations – by this totalitarian logic, our post, our smartphones or our bedrooms could also be generally monitored. Unleashing such denunciation machines on us is ineffective, illegal and irresponsible.
Indiscriminate searches will not protect children and even endanger them by exposing their private photos to unknown persons, and by criminalising children themselves. Already overburdened investigators are kept busy with having to sort out thousands of criminally irrelevant messages. The victims of such a terrible crime as child sexual abuse deserve measures that prevent abuse in the first place. The right approach would be, for example, to intensify undercover investigations into child porn rings and reduce of the years-long processing backlogs in searches and evaluations of seized data.”*
Marcel Kolaja, Czech Pirate Party MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, comments:
“Post officers also do not open your private letters to see if you’re sending anything objectionable. The same rule should apply online. However, what this exception will do is an irrevocable damage to our fundamental right to privacy, Moreover, monitoring across large platforms will only lead to criminals moving to platforms where chat control will be technically impossible. As a result, innocent people will be snooped on a daily basis while tracking down criminals will fail.“
Pirates plan legal action against the regulation
The EU’s plans for chat control have been confirmed to violate fundamental rights by a former judge of the European Court of Justice. Patrick Breyer plans to take legal action against the regulation and is looking for victims of abuse who would file such a complainant. „Abuse victims are particularly harmed by this mass surveillance“, explains Breyer. „To be able to speak freely about the abuse they have suffered and seek help in a safe space is critical to victims of sexualised violence. They depend on the possibility to communicate safely and confidentially. These safe spaces are now being taken away from them, which will prevent victims from seeking help and support.“
The European Commission has already announced a follow-up regulation to make chat control mandatory for all email and messaging providers. Previously secure end-to-end encrypted messenger services such as Whatsapp or Signal would be forced to install a backdoor. There is a considerable backlash against these plans: A public consultation carried out by the EU Commission revealed that 51% of all respondents oppose chat control for e-mail and messaging providers. 80% of respondents do not want chat control to be applied to encrypted messages.  Due to the resistance, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johannson has postponed the proposal until September 2021.
More Information on Chatcontrol: www.chatcontrol.eu
  https://www.patrick-breyer.de/en/poll-72-of-citizens-oppose-eu-plans-to-search-all-private-messages-for-allegedly-illegal-material-and-report-to-the-police/  https://www.patrick-breyer.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Legal-Opinion-Screening-for-child-pornography-2021-03-04.pdf  https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12726-Child-sexual-abuse-online-detection-removal-and-reporting-/public-consultation_de
For further details and media inquiries please contact:
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Tomáš Polák for Czech and English