The European Commission recently announced that Internet companies might soon be forced to allow access to encrypted and sensitive data from a variety of apps due to new laws being considered in the EU. In June, European lawmakers will push for new laws permitting law enforcement agencies to make use of data stored by encrypted apps in the cloud and other sites.
Before passing a law, online companies may be offered three or four options, ranging anywhere from allowing the companies to voluntarily give them access to stricter enforced legislation. The idea behind these laws is to provide police a faster and more reliable means to uncover what potential criminals may be saying to others when using app encryptions.
Current Laws versus New Laws
Currently, police officers and prosecutors depend on companies providing access voluntarily to gather potential electronic evidence. It is the opinion of some legislators and police officers that having new, stronger laws in place would make it easier for them to monitor sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google that are registered outside the jurisdiction of the EU.
While just the threat of legislation is often enough to push companies into making changes to their internal policies, legislators expect US corporations such as Apple and Facebook to push back against them and therefore do not expect a swift resolution. It may take several years to pass this highly debated legislation.
Recently, European governments have made a number of high-pressure moves against several social media companies. There is a strong political insistence to adopt new laws to help police gain access to data that requires hacking into secure encrypted sites. Many believe that law enforcement should be given access to criminals’ communication on social media sites because these services allow terrorists to transmit messages secretly.
Opposition to the Legislation
Opponents of these potential laws argue that it is nearly impossible to create a way into these sites which will stay exclusive to police. They feel that unauthorized hackers or cyber criminals would have the same access if there were a breach in the encryption system. It is not possible to ensure that only certain entities will be able to use this particular access.
Many opponents are against weakening the encryption system and wonder whether an opening can be made for Interpol and Europol without allowing state spies or even the Russian mafia to gain access. Joining the fight is Apple and Facebook, technology giants, who have fought against such laws in the past, and are not frightened or impressed by pressure from various governments.
In response, law enforcement and politicians insist that, when they have a warrant, they should have complete access to someone’s stored data and private communication, even though this is interfering with online privacy rights. Supporters of these potential laws offer the risk of terrorism as a reason behind passing them. With US President Donald Trump’s interest in repealing American privacy protection laws, the EU may follow suit. Very soon, residents of the EU may be asking themselves many of the same questions regarding privacy as the US citizens have.