Home EU prepares to vote on proposed regulation to scan messaging apps

EU prepares to vote on proposed regulation to scan messaging apps


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  • The EU will vote on a regulation requiring messaging apps to scan users' private texts for CSAM.
  • The proposed law mandates apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage to scan images and URLs in chats.
  • Privacy experts and app makers, like Signal, oppose the mandate, citing threats to encryption and privacy.

The European Union (EU) will vote on a proposal that could require messaging apps to scan their users’ private texts.

Thursday will see the EU vote on the new proposed regulation, following in the footsteps of previous attempts from the UK government and Apple to scan messages for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Neither of those plans went through but this Chat Control Law could still be in with a shot.

The proposed regulation would require users of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage to agree to new terms and conditions. These would allow app makers to scan images and URLs within chats for suspicious content.

What is the response to the message scanning mandate?

As might be expected, privacy experts and app makers alike are wary about the plans. Messaging app Signal has publicly stated that it will force communications to be passed through a surveillance system.

Speaking to Hacker News, Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation said: “Mandating mass scanning of private communications fundamentally undermines encryption. Full Stop.”

“Whether this happens via tampering with, for instance, an encryption algorithm’s random number generation, or by implementing a key escrow system, or by forcing communications to pass through a surveillance system before they’re encrypted,” she continued.

According to the EU, the regulations could only be employed for “the purpose of detecting child sexual abuse.”

“Providers will have to deploy technologies that are the least privacy-intrusive in accordance with the state of the art in the industry, and that limit the error rate of false positives to the maximum extent possible,” the EU explained.

The previous attempts from the UK government as part of the Online Safety Bill led to both WhatsApp and Signal threatening to withdraw their apps from the UK market over the proposal. As a result of this and other pressures, the bill didn’t pass.

Featured image: Ideogram

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Rachael Davies
Tech Journalist

Rachael Davies has spent six years reporting on tech and entertainment, writing for publications like the Evening Standard, Huffington Post, Dazed, and more. From niche topics like the latest gaming mods to consumer-faced guides on the latest tech, she puts her MA in Convergent Journalism to work, following avenues guided by a variety of interests. As well as writing, she also has experience in editing as the UK Editor of The Mary Sue , as well as speaking on the important of SEO in journalism at the Student Press Association National Conference. You can find her full portfolio over on…

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