Stop Encryption on Social Media, Says European Police

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Europe’s Police Chiefs and Europol are calling for politicians and industry leaders to take urgent action to ensure public safety across social media platforms, claiming that the adoption of end-to-end encryption is allowing offenders to hide.

They demand maintaining ‘lawful access’ to data of suspected criminals when investigating crimes. Europol’s Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said in a statement that if police lose the ability to collect evidence “our society will not be able to protect people from becoming victims of crime… Our homes are becoming more dangerous than our streets as crime is moving online. To keep our society and people safe, we need this digital environment to be secured.”

Police chiefs are also warning that tech companies that use encryption will lose the ability to proactively identify illegal and harmful activity on their own platforms, especially when it comes to detecting users who want to carry out sexual offenses and target children. “The companies currently have the ability to alert the proper authorities – with the result that many thousands of children have been safeguarded, and perpetrators arrested and brought to justice,” thus reads the document.

According to Cybernews, the authorities became concerned about losing their capability to fight crime after Meta began enabling end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default for all Messenger users. This means, according to Meta’s announcement, that “nobody during this delivery, including Meta, can see or listen to what’s sent or said.” This has made the police chiefs extremely concerned that this spreading use of E2EE will render companies unable to respond effectively to a lawful authority, nor to identify or report illegal activity on their platforms.

Heads of authorities believe there should not be a binary choice between privacy and public safety, claiming that technical solutions do exist but require flexibility from industry as well as from governments. “We call on our democratic governments to put in place frameworks that give us the information we need to keep our public safe,” state the European Chiefs of Police.