European Cnil criticizes child pornography project in the name of privacy

European Cnil is very critical of the European Commission’s anti-child pornography proposal. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB for European Data Protection Board), the advisory body that brings together European CNILs, published an opinion on 29 July 2022 confirming that the text poses serious risks to fundamental rights.

In this joint position of the EDPB and the European Data Protection Supervisory Authority (EDPS), the authorities state: “Restrictions on privacy and data protection rights must respect the essence of fundamental rights and remain limited to what is strictly necessary and proportionate.”

Text to be clarified

Last May, the European Commission unveiled a legislative proposal that includes obligations to detect, report, remove and block all child sexual abuse material (CSAM, for child sexual abuse material), as well as “grooming”, a practice that is to make friends with children and get them to trust to molest them for sexual purposes. These obligations apply to e-mail providers, hosting service providers, Internet access providers and application stores, for example.

Specifically, this detection obligation obliges them to install backdoors in their services to combat child pornography on the Internet. They are required to do so by order of a judicial or administrative authority. Reports issued under this structure are then processed by the new EU body.

EDPS is very concerned about how this text may affect privacy and personal data. “The lack of detail, clarity and specificity of the conditions for issuing an order for the detection of VNVU and child harassment does not guarantee that in fact there will only be a targeted approach to the identification of VVVD,” writes the Committee. the risk that this proposal will become the basis for ubiquitous and indiscriminate scanning of the content of virtually all types of electronic communications. For greater security, the ERMS requests text refinement at the level of conditions for issuing a discovery request.

Access to communications

The EDPB believes that “the text in its current form may pose a greater risk to individuals and therefore to society as a whole than to perpetrators prosecuted for child sexual abuse material.” Another issue raised by the EDPB relates to the detection of grooming and the use of technology, in particular artificial intelligence, to scan user posts and identify such practices.

In addition to potential errors, such a practice would be an invasion of privacy. “Measures allowing public authorities to access the content of messages generally affect the essence of the right to privacy,” Wojciech Wewerowski, curator of the EDPS, says in a press release, “The technology used is limited to the use of indicators, the negative impact of widespread surveillance of text and audio messages individuals so seriously that it cannot be justified under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

The practice is all the more criticized as European Cnil welcomes the importance of end-to-end encryption, which would be undermined by the deployment of such discovery tools. Will this opinion be taken into account in future debates on this text? The latter must be approved by Parliament, in which the most heated debates could take place, and by the Council. Council that would like to ban encrypted messages in the name of fighting terrorism.

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