advocates have been alarmed by calls of French and German interior
ministers, who proposed a law that would make it compulsory for
digital messenger services to offer unencrypted records of users’
conversations to security services.
Bernard Cazeneuve and Germany’s Thomas de Maiziere shared a
platform, as they spoke to the press following a Paris meeting on
Cazeneuve said the countries were “not
questioning the idea of encryption” –
the ability to send messages digitally that cannot be easily
intercepted and deciphered by outsiders – but nonetheless pushed
for a new law to be discussed by EU leaders during next month’s
meeting in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava.
such legislation was adopted, this would allow us to impose
obligations at the European level on non-cooperative operators," said
the French minister.
Cazeneuve and de Maiziere called for a bolstering of external EU
borders, better information sharing between member states, and
implementation of facial recognition software that could identify
suspects in public places.
Cazeneuve specifically drew attention
to Telegram, a fast-rising messenger service, founded three years ago
by Russian tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov.
Legally domiciled in
several countries around the world, Telegram prides itself on extra
security measures, functions such as self-destructing messages, and
not kowtowing to governments.
Officials say that the app has
been used to broadcast radical Islamist propaganda, and is also
popular with terrorists planning attacks, with its latest documented
use among the two men who murdered an elderly Catholic priest in
Normandy, in France, earlier this month.
made via applications like Telegram must be able to be identified and
used in legal proceedings," insisted
WhatsApp and Messenger, as well as Viber, are also likely to face the
The EU’s ePrivacy Directive is already under
review, and the European Commission endorsed the ministers’ joint
But privacy advocates are not impressed,
particularly at the prospect of giving the government “back
keys that could bypass encryption. "How
could we then prevent terrorists from creating their own encrypted
apps and as a consequence enjoy a higher level of security than users
who have nothing to hide," a
group of leading privacy advocates wrote in a public appeal in Le
Monde newspaper on Monday, in anticipation of Tuesday’s security
down on encryption for the wider public would therefore give a
monopoly on its usage to organizations that would abuse
policy director for the Computer and Communications Industry
Association Christian Borggreen has said that recent Islamist attacks
in Nice and Brussels should not lead to overly simplistic
is certainly understandable that some would respond to recent
tragedies with backdoors and more government access. But weakened
security ultimately leaves online systems more vulnerable to all
types of attacks from terrorists to hackers. This should be a time to
increase security – not weaken it,” he
told Ars Technica.