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Is the EU’s proposed Chat Control law compromising online privacy?

Why is it in the news?

  • The EU’s Chat Control law has become a source of controversy within the member states of the bloc.
  • Initially introduced by the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, in May 2022 as part of the bloc’s efforts to combat online child sexual abuse, the bill’s framework has faced criticism and has been mockingly dubbed “Chat Control.”


More about the news

  • Countries like France, Germany, and Poland have strongly opposed a provision in the law that permits the mass scanning of private messages by circumventing end-to-end encryption. This stance has been supported by several tech companies, trade associations, and privacy experts who all stand against this regulation.
  • On the other hand, the Interior Ministers of Spain and Ireland have expressed their backing for the proposal.
  • Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations and individuals advocating for children’s rights in Europe has criticized EU leaders for their failure to address child sexual abuse on the internet.

Concerns opposing the proposal

  • The issue of scanning end-to-end encrypted messages remains contentious due to the inevitable creation of vulnerable backdoors that could be exploited by third parties, thus compromising the integrity of end-to-end encryption.
  • Tech companies that have attempted bypassing encryption have often faced backlash. For instance, in 2021, Apple introduced NeuralHash, a feature capable of scanning iCloud photo libraries for child sexual abuse material. However, due to concerns raised by employees and activist groups regarding privacy implications, Apple eventually abandoned the initiative.
  • Furthermore, there is a looming concern that authoritarian governments could potentially misuse such features to target dissenting individuals. Apple recognized this risk, emphasizing the unintended consequences and potential for widespread surveillance.
  • While the UK’s Online Safety Bill proposed a similar clause for scanning private and encrypted messages, the plan was met with resistance from encrypted messaging app providers like WhatsApp and Signal. In the final stages, the House of Lords delayed the implementation of such scanning until its technical feasibility was assured.

The Current status of the EU’s Chat Control law

  • A revised draft of the proposal, set to be reviewed on June 30, no longer includes the scanning of text messages and audio. Instead, the focus is now on monitoring shared photos, videos, and URLs in response to critics’ concerns.
  • Additionally, a new modification involving obtaining user consent before scanning shared content is being considered. However, this compromise has been heavily criticized as users who refuse scanning may be restricted from sending or receiving certain content without a true choice.
  • Despite these adjustments, there have been exemptions to these regulations in the EU’s enforcement. A temporary derogation of the E-Privacy Directive against child sexual abuse material was proposed in November 2023, allowing certain online service providers to monitor messages to detect and remove harmful content. However, plans for further extensions of this regulation have faced delays, raising questions about the effectiveness of these measures.


  • Critics like Meredith Whittaker, President of Signal app, have labeled these modifications as “superficial” and have expressed concerns about undermining end-to-end encryption.
  • Furthermore, a joint statement signed by over 60 organizations emphasizes the potential implications of these regulations on government surveillance beyond the EU.

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