France and Germany Lobby for Decryption

French and German interior ministers are lobbying for decryption legislation.

During a joint press conference in Paris, interior ministers from Germany – Bernard Cazeneuve – and France – Thomas de Maizière – called for the European Commission to give security agencies the ability to access otherwise inaccessible data.

This would enable courts to demand internet companies to decrypt data for use in criminal investigations.

The debate is not new, as end-to-end encryption has been a source of contention across the globe in recent years.

The push for these proposals is to be discussed in a meeting next month and follows a period of high risk in France and Germany, most notably the attacks on Paris in November 2015 and Nice in July this year.

According to France’s homeland security chief Patrick Calvar, “gigabytes” of data were collected following the mass shooting in Paris, which was “often encrypted, and impossible to decipher”.

In Cazeneuve’s speech, he called for better border controls in Europe and enhanced sharing of information between countries. The minister emphasised that European laws need to change in order to “armour” democracies with power to allow security agencies access to encrypted comms apps, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, that terrorists apparently use to communicate.

He then went on to specify that decryption laws were needed for certain communications applications, but blanket restrictions should remain for services such as financial transactions.

In the UK, the Investigatory Powers bill proposes to limit the use of end-to-end encryption, allowing the government to require companies to share otherwise protected data. The Bill is currently progressing through Parliament’s upper chamber.

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