App-makers get a choice: Open up voluntarily or we’ll pass laws forcing you to.
The European Commission will push for backdoor access to end-to-end encrypted internet apps in June, according to EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová.
Speaking publicly, and claiming that she has been pushed by politicians across Europe, Jourová said that she will outline “three or four options” that range from voluntary agreements by business to strict legislation.
The EC’s goal is to provide the police with a “swift and reliable” way to discover what users of encrypted apps have been communicating with others.
“At the moment, prosecutors, judges, also police and law enforcement authorities, are dependent on whether or not providers will voluntarily provide the access and the evidence. This is not the way we can facilitate and ensure the security of Europeans, being dependent on some voluntary action,” Jourová said, according to EU policy site Euractiv.
Typically governments will use the threat of legislation to push companies into agreeing to offer what they want voluntarily. But Jourová clearly expects some significant pushback from the tech industry – particularly US corporations such as Facebook and Apple – and so argued that the voluntary, non-legislative approaches would only be provisional in order to get to “a quick solution,” with laws coming later.
The intended message is that the EC is not bluffing and although it will take a few years to pass such legislation, it is prepared to do so, and may do so regardless of what app-makers offer.
The announcement comes close on the heels of a number of aggressive pushes by European governments against social media companies.