A German member of the European Parliament is warning against EU plans to adopt new, wide-ranging mass surveillance rules that he says would seriously jeopardize citizens' right to privacy by forcing tech companies to give access to encrypted messages to the authorities.
And that is what the laws now in the works in Brussels - that are supposed to replace temporary rules adopted in July - are designed to do, by ordering messaging and video chat providers like WhatsApp and Skype to put tech in place that would provide access to people's private communications and, thanks to an automated system, monitor chats in real time and report suspicious content.
In a statement, MEP Patrick Breyer said that the EU commission must understand that it cannot give itself the right to intrusive surveillance of digital communication of every citizen, and do it without "specific suspicion." He also believes EU's policy on this issue is not only illegal and irresponsible - but also effective.
As is often the case, the new intrusive regulation is being sold to the public as a way to combat sexual abuse of children, but the ramifications are much broader, while the idea of suspecting everyone in advance - making citizens "guilty until proven innocent" - doesn't sit at all well with privacy advocates like Breyer.
Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld shed light on how dissenters on this issue are treated, revealing that they are made to feel like they are not committed to combating child abuse because they have questions critical of the proposed laws.
A number of other MEPs are opposed to the idea and speak about that openly, with some comparing the EU's model of mass online surveillance to what is happening in China.
On his website, Breyer explained that what he refers to as "chatcontrol" is allowing the EU to have access to chats, messages and emails the providers scan in a way that is "general and indiscriminate." He also said that building on the July regulation, the EU planned to already have expanded rules in place this fall, but that the date had to be postponed because of pushback from citizens and stakeholders.