Thursday, May 19

Brussels approves internet giants to spy on private messages to combat child sexual abuse

A woman looks at her mobile.

A woman looks at her mobile.
Albert Bertran

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others may to spy the private conversations you have through their services. This was approved this Thursday by the European Parliament, which overwhelmingly gave the green light to a temporary permit with which they intend to give internet providers more tools to combat child sexual abuse more effectively.

The European chamber approved with 537 votes in favor, 133 against and 24 abstentions a project that temporarily suspends articles 5 and 6 of the 2002 European directive that protects the confidentiality of electronic communications. With this, a period of three years is given for these digital companies can “voluntarily” review the contents of chats and emails on their platforms to more easily detect cases of sexual exploitation of minors. This will not apply to audio communications.

The European Parliament put this temporary regulation on the table at the request of the European Comission, which seeks mechanisms to pursue a “worrying increase in the material” of child abuse circulating on the Internet, which would have skyrocketed during the pandemic. To detect sexual abuse online, platforms use systems of Artificial intelligence (IA) that track and remove that content, however they are not sufficiently perfected and may incur errors.

Impact on privacy

Although the purpose is noble, the measure has raised alarms for its possible implications on the Privacy of the users. “It may not be perfect, but it is a viable and temporary solution,” confessed the German Social Democratic deputy. Birgit Sippel, driving force behind the measure. The bill approved by the European Parliament establishes that the Internet giants “must use technologies that are the least intrusive to privacy as possible.”

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Even so, opponents of this measure, such as the vice president of Parliament, Marcel Kolaja, believe that it is an exception that will cause “irrevocable damage to our fundamental right to privacy.”

“This new EU legislation that gives providers the right to voluntarily scan private messages does not break encryption or lead us to a regime of mass surveillance mandatory. But it definitely sets the stage for it ”, he criticized Matthew Green, professor of cryptography at John Hopkins University

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