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EU’s Mass Surveillance Faces Fierce Resistance

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The European Union (EU) has managed to unite politicians, app makers, privacy advocates, and whistleblowers in opposition to the bloc’s proposed encryption-breaking new rules, known as “chat control” (officially, CSAM (child sexual abuse material) Regulation).

Thursday was slated as the day for member countries’ governments, via their EU Council ambassadors, to vote on the bill that mandates automated searches of private communications on the part of platforms, and “forced opt-ins” from users.

However, reports on Thursday afternoon quoted unnamed EU officials as saying that “the required qualified majority would just not be met” – and that the vote was therefore canceled.

This comes after several countries, including Germany, signaled they would either oppose or abstain during the vote. The gist of the opposition to the bill long in the making is that it seeks to undermine end-to-end encryption to allow the EU to carry out indiscriminate mass surveillance of all users.

The justification here is that such drastic new measures are necessary to detect and remove CSAM from the internet – but this argument is rejected by opponents as a smokescreen for finally breaking encryption, and exposing citizens in the EU to unprecedented surveillance while stripping them of the vital technology guaranteeing online safety.

Some squarely security and privacy-focused apps like Signal and Threema said ahead of the vote that was expected today they would withdraw from the EU market if they had to include client-side scanning, i.e., automated monitoring.

WhatsApp hasn’t gone quite so far (yet) but Will Cathcart, who heads the app over at Meta, didn’t mince his words in a post on X when he wrote that what the EU is proposing – breaks encryption.

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