In 2020, the European Commission put forward temporary legislation on ‘chat control’. This sought to legalise the scanning of everyone’s private online communications—every message, email or chat. Successor to a long line of attacks from governments on the encryption of online communications, it raised concerns among privacy activists with its potential to spark a new such ‘cryptowar’.
These attacks instrumentalise fears of politically-motivated violence and child abuse to undermine safety measures such as encryption, which are essential for the safety not just of journalists, whistleblowers, political dissidents and human-rights defenders but of anyone who relies on confidential online communication.
The ‘solution’ proposed by the commission would create far more problems than it purportedly solves. There are alternative answers to the serious challenge of online sharing of child abuse and exploitative material, without resorting to spying on everyone.