The European Union is moving to ban end-to-end encrypted communication.
An EU council of ministers resolution spearheaded by French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the conservative Austrian People’s Party would mandate that apps such as Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp provide European intelligence services with backdoor access in order to allow them to better monitor the conversations of their citizens.
Encryption is an important tool used by dissidents, journalists and privacy-conscious citizens around the world in an age of mass surveillance and strict social media censorship. Millions have started embracing the technology in the West as the rulers of the Anglosphere and Europe continue to lose public confidence and become more repressive.
The excuse being given for this effort is a spate of recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria committed by Islamic extremists. Rather than contend with the complex cultural, ethnic and immigration issues that lead to such violence, Macron, Kurz and the interests they represent see an opportunity to expand their eavesdropping power over their increasingly frightened population.
In recent years, laws passed by liberal governments under the guise of combating foreign Islamic terrorism have been utilized against citizens espousing nationalist, populist and dissident ideas, as well as adversarial political factions.
In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was founded after 9/11 to combat Al Qaeda operations domestically, but its unconstitutional powers today are largely focused on going after right-wing white men. The FBI’s CIA-like power granted to them in the name of counter-terrorism lowered the bar for surveillance via the secret FISA court and was used by permanent bureaucrats to entrap and spy on members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
Figures struggling with low approval ratings like Macron have a vested interest in being able to spy on protest movements like the Yellow Vests, who have largely been shut down by Facebook and forced to migrate to Telegram.
In pursuing these measures, Europe will be following the lead of the Five Eyes intelligence network (United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada), which last October put out a call for an international plan to end accessible encryption for ordinary citizens.