The European Union (EU) will vote on a proposal that could require messaging apps to scan their users’ private texts.

Thursday will see the EU vote on the proposed new regulation, following in the footsteps of previous attempts by the UK government and Apple to screen messages for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). None of these plans have been implemented but this chat control law could still be in place in one shot.

The proposed regulation would require users of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and iMessage to agree to new terms and conditions. This will allow app makers to scan images and URLs within chats for suspicious content.

What is the response to the message scanning mandate?

Predictably, privacy experts and app makers alike are concerned about these plans. Messaging app Signal has publicly stated that it will force communications to pass through a surveillance system.

Speaking to Hacker News“Forcing blanket scanning of private communications fundamentally undermines encryption,” said Meredith Whitaker, president of the Signal Foundation. “Period.”

“Whether this happens by manipulating, for example, the random number generation of the encryption algorithm, or by implementing a key assurance system, or by forcing communications to pass through a monitoring system before being encrypted,” she continued.

According to the European Union, these regulations can only be used “for the purpose of detecting child sexual abuse.”

The European Union explained that “service providers will have to deploy technologies that are least intrusive to privacy in accordance with the state-of-the-art in the industry, and that limit the error rate of false positives to the greatest extent possible.”

Previous attempts from the UK government as part of the Online Safety Bill resulted in both WhatsApp and Signal threatening to pull their apps from the UK market over the proposal. As a result of these and other pressures, the bill was not passed.

Featured image: ideogram

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