A leaked document obtained by WIRED reveals that Spain is pushing for a ban on encryption within the European Union. The document, a survey conducted by the European Council, sheds light on the views of EU member states regarding encryption regulation and the scanning of private messages for illegal content. While the proposed law aims to combat child sexual abuse material, it has faced criticism from experts in cryptography, technology, and privacy advocacy due to its potential impact on end-to-end encryption.
The leaked document shows that a majority of the 20 EU countries represented are in favor of some form of scanning encrypted messages, with Spain taking the most extreme stance. Spanish representatives expressed the desire to legislatively prevent EU-based service providers from implementing end-to-end encryption. The document offers insights into which countries support a proposal that could significantly alter encryption and the future of online privacy.
End-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and receiver can access the contents of their communications, excluding all other parties, including scammers, law enforcement, and the platform provider. While law enforcement advocates propose technical mechanisms to bypass encryption for investigations, experts argue that such measures would weaken encryption’s security and put user privacy at risk. Furthermore, they argue that weakening encryption would ultimately undermine digital safety and security, particularly for vulnerable groups like children.
The leaked document, which contains the positions of EU member states’ law enforcement working party, reveals strong support for scanning end-to-end encrypted communications for illegal content related to child sexual abuse. Croatia, Slovenia, and Romania are among the countries supporting scanning, while Denmark and Ireland advocate for scanning while protecting encryption from being weakened. The Netherlands suggests “on-device” scanning as a possible solution. However, experts note that scanning encrypted messages without compromising encryption’s security is technically impossible.
Spain and Poland stand out in their desire to gain access to encrypted communications. Spain’s interior minister believes it is imperative to have access to encrypted data and suggests that encrypted communications should be decryptable. Hungary and Cyprus also express support for law enforcement access to encrypted communications. On the other hand, countries like Italy, Estonia, and Germany voice concerns about the proposal and emphasize the importance of preserving end-to-end encryption and its role in protecting privacy and online security.
Security experts warn that any potential backdoors or decryption capabilities would compromise overall encryption security, potentially leading to exploitation by criminal hackers or governments. While some countries support stronger encryption protections, the ongoing discussions regarding encryption regulation highlight the complexity and varied perspectives surrounding this issue.