What exactly does the government want to do?
“It is actually an amendment to a European directive that deals with the preservation of metadata. This relates to who called or contacted you, where you are or what websites you consult. The European Court has overturned this directive. The fact that everyone always keeps track of everything about everyone has been taken into account. Very comprehensive. Now they are trying to change this law. For example, they only want to keep this data in areas with high crime rates.
At first glance you might say a development in the right direction. But a somewhat surprising piece of legislation has been added. For example, messaging services such as WhatsApp, Signal or Facebook must, at the request of the police and judicial authorities, release the content of suspicious persons’ communications, making it possible to listen to or read those conversations.”
Why is this a bad idea?
“Encryption protects everyday activities, such as managing online bank accounts or communicating with your friends and family. End-to-end encryption also protects vulnerable communities and professions where private communication is essential, such as journalists, lawyers or medical professionals. It is dangerous to allow loopholes as now suggested This backdoor weakens the system for all users. Once there, criminals can easily be misused to steal data from innocent citizens. Or by unfriendly countries or authoritarian regimes – China, Russia, Iran and North Korea – to monitor civilians.”
So, ironically, is fighting a relevant fight against organized crime just opening the door for criminals?
“Right. Because through this backdoor you make everyone vulnerable. There is no way to allow third parties to access end-to-end encrypted data without undermining the security and privacy of all users. In addition, this backdoor is not helpful. Anyone planning something Or he has something to hide he will look for other channels. So now you meet all the residents, as well as the government itself, by the way. For example, the European Commission uses Signal. And now the Belgian government will oblige Signal to build such a back door into its system. So it’s a great discussion. Belgian legislation The proposal is the most dangerous of all the member states of Europe.”
You’re not alone: the design has already received negative advice from the Data Protection Authority (GBA)?
I also give advice to that committee, but of course I’m not the only one on that committee. There are many experts and they agree that there are significant risks associated with this legislation. The only option for these messaging services is to either make their system insecure or stop providing their services to our country. Given the modest size of the Belgian market, this will be easier and cheaper for them. If such legislation is required at all, it is better to develop it on a European scale.”
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