France and Germany are just two of the countries that are pressing mobile messaging companies to provide access to encrypted content during terrorist investigations. Both countries have experienced a series of deadly attacks and have been struggling to intercept messages from the Islamic State. France and Germany have turned to the European Commission to help push through favorable legislation.
Terrorists are increasingly using encrypted messaging services instead of social media. ISIS is a major user of such apps. Russian app Telegram has been particularly reluctant to cooperate with European governments and is one of the targets of the proposed legislation. France and Germany are also looking to be more open about Europe’s various databases of personal information. Countries that are part of the European Union would be able to look-up information concerning data on visas, potential militant threats within the border-free Schengen area, refugees, and airline passengers.
Other countries such as the United Kingdom are also working to expand surveillance. The United Kingdom’s Investigatory Powers Bill would limit the use of end-to-end encryption. This type of legislation could potentially dissuade communication companies from using end-to-end encryption to secure their services.
The legislation faces great opposition in Europe and the United States. Christian Borggreen, the European Director of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) stated, “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.”
The bill is even opposed by members of the EU and EC. Giovanni Buttarelli, the EU’s Data Protection Supervisor, remarked, “The new rules should… clearly allow users to use end-to-end encryption (without ‘backdoors’) to protect their electronic communications. Decryption, reverse engineering or monitoring of communications protected by encryption should be prohibited.”
The battle this past year between Apple and the United States government was certainly not an isolated event. The increase in terrorist acts has only made governments more anxious and more willing to consider laws that would impose upon the privacy of their citizens.