Big privacy concerns related to EU plan to scan chat messages

European privacy regulators are very concerned about plans by the European Commission to oblige chat services and other tech companies to scan all messages and other content from users for child abuse and speak of a serious risk to the fundamental rights of 450 million Europeans.

The proposal imposes obligations on providers, hosting services, communication services, app stores, internet service providers and other services to detect, report, remove and block child abuse material and combat grooming. The European Privacy Supervisor EDPS and the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) agree in a joint opinion that child abuse is a very serious crime, but that the curtailment of privacy and data protection should respect the essence of these fundamental rights and limit it to what is strictly necessary and is proportional.

According to the EDPS and EDPB, the European Commission’s proposal in its current form poses a greater risk to individuals and society as a whole than to criminals prosecuted for child abuse. Regulators are very concerned about the impact that the proposed measures will have on individuals’ privacy and personal data.

The lack of detail, clarity and precision carries the risk that the proposal lays the foundation for monitoring all types of digital communications, regulators said. The proposal may even harm the individuals it is supposed to protect. It would also seriously affect the confidentiality of communications in the European Union.

The regulators also state that the use of artificial intelligence to scan communications is very likely to lead to errors and constitutes a major invasion of citizens’ privacy. The regulators therefore call on the European Commission to adjust the proposal.