European Council wants ‘master key’ for encrypted messages

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The European Council of Ministers is working on a proposal that would oblige chat applications such as WhatsApp and Signal to develop methods for intelligence services to view messages on the platforms.

The proposal follows a recent terrorist attack that took place in Vienna. A sympathizer of the Islamic State opened fire on a number of random passers-by. According to the Council of Ministers, insight into messages with end-to-end encryption can prevent such attacks.

End-to-end encryption

The Council of Ministers proposes to maintain the end-to-end encryption on message platforms but to give authorities something like a master key they can use to decrypt the messages.

However, this would theoretically go against the very essence of end-to-end encryption, as it would no longer be impossible for intermediate parties to intercept the messages. In theory, if a government agency can intercept a message, a malicious party can do the same.

The Council does not give concrete advice to how the developers of chat services should deal with this, but suggests that the tech industry should start discussing the possibilities.

Voting

Involved parties may respond to the bill until 12 November. If no changes are needed, it will be submitted to the Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security on 19 November. On 25 November, the Committee of Permanent Representatives will then consider the resolution. If all that goes well, the proposal will finally end up before the European Council.

Tip: Zoom rolls out support for end-to-end encryption