Technology More than 300 scientists urge the EU to review its approach to...

More than 300 scientists urge the EU to review its approach to E2EE in the fight against child sexual abuse

More than 300 scientists urge the EU to review its approach to E2EE in the fight against child sexual abuse

More of 300 researchers from all over the world have urged the European authorities to review the technological approach with which they intend to combat sexual abuse of minors, for understanding that the currently available technology is ineffective for said purpose and “while its potential for damage is substantial” for citizens and society.

Scientists and researchers from 32 countries -also from Spain- have called on the European Union (EU) to review the regulation in which it is currently working to combat sexual abuse of minors, since it proposes the use of effective scanning technologies for applications with end-to-end encryption (E2EE), something that, they consider, “could make the Internet and society digital technology less secure for everyone.

The more than 300 signatories to the open letter recognize the “lifelong damage” that the crimes of child sexual abuse and exploitation can cause to survivors, and defend that the different actors in society must work together to combat them. However, do not agree with the proposed technological approach, since they consider that it puts individuals and society as a whole at risk.

The new law would force digital service and application providers to scan the contents of user communicationssuch as shared voice messages, emails, pictures, or text messages. Also in the case of services such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook and Telegram, which protect their users’ communications with E2EE, thus preventing third parties or the application from which they are sent from being able to access them.

This encryption, however, prevents criminal exchanges that are carried out in the ‘apps’ from being accessedwhich makes police investigations difficult, as in the case that the EU seeks to regulate, of child sexual abuse, and for this reason it has been included in the proposed regulation that this scanning can be carried out on users’ devices, which is known as ‘client-side scanning’ (CSS).

CSS technology acts as ‘software’ spyware with the ability to scan the content on the user’s device before it has been encrypted or after it has been decrypted. Apple went so far as to implement CSS technology in 2021, but after two weeks decided to withdraw it “due to privacy concerns and the fact that the system had already been hijacked and tampered with.”

The researchers note that “scanning is doomed to be ineffective,” because “Scanning technologies that currently exist and are on the horizon are deeply flawed“, as stated in the letter.

“The integration of large-scale scanning into applications running on users’ devices, and particularly in a global context, creates side effects that can be extremely harmful to everyone online and could make the Internet and digital society less safe for everyone,” they say.

This is because, on the one hand, it undermines the work done both by European researchers and scientists themselves and by European authorities on security and privacy in digital environments to establish global encryption standards; and on the other, “it would set a world precedent for filter the internet, control who can access it, and remove some of the few tools available to people to protect their right to a private life in the digital space.

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