Its widespread use could hinder the detection of illegal activity on instant messaging services.

On April 21, 2024, law enforcement from 32 European countries expressed their concerns over the rollout of end-to-end encryption by instant messaging apps. The European Union’s 27 member-States, along with the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, thus signed the joint statement.

“Companies will no longer be able to respond effectively to the relevant authorities. They will not be able to identify or report illegal activity on their platforms either,” states the press release.

At the end of 2023, Meta indeed announced the standardization of end-to-end encryption on Messenger for 2024; Instagram should follow suit next year. This development could reduce the number of sexual abuse reports from these two platforms tenfold, according to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

“Encryption can be hugely beneficial, protecting users from a range of crimes. But the blunt and increasingly widespread rollout by major tech companies of end-to-end encryption, without sufficient consideration for public safety, is putting users in danger,” thus declared NCA Director Graeme Biggar.

Europol Executive Director Catherine Bolle considers “tech companies have a social responsibility to develop a safer environment where law enforcement and justice can do their work.”

However, the statement does not include any technical recommendations for reconciling the protection of privacy and the authority to access conversations related to illegal activity. It only suggests setting up “security by design,” without further details.

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