Leaked German Memo Raises Questions about Privacy in Europe

Ki James
Ki James
June 23th, 2022

Recently, we wrote an article about the problematic new policy on the docket in the European Union allowing government agencies to surveil users. While ostensibly this is for a good cause, its knock on effects are disturbing from a privacy perspective, to say the least.

If the EU law were to come to pass, it would set the precedent that, as long as the threat is big enough, any right to privacy citizens in Europe may have is ultimately irrelevant. Once established, it’s not too far a stretch to imagine certain religious or political identities being quashed with such laws.

That being said, a new leaked document out of Germany seems to suggest that not all European member states are on board with this shift.

The German Political Situation

As you may be aware, the German government has gone through quite the shift recently. After 16 years of leadership, Angela Merkel resigned in 2021. A long term member of the center right party, the Christian Democratic Union, she was succeeded by Olaf Scholz of the center left Social Democratic Party.

This shift in political alignment in the country comes with many effects, including a stated commitment to the privacy rights of every German citizen. With this in mind, the government has drafted a list of questions it intends to present to the commission responsible for proposing this new policy.

What comes after that is not so clear. If the answers the commission gives fail to meet the German government's standard to the right to encryption, it’s possible that they’ll oppose the bill fully, demand it get revised, or even do nothing.

The Document Itself

All of this discussion of the circumstances that the document arose out of has lost sight of the core of the news - the list of questions Germany will bring to the table.

The list is rather quite long, and enumerating all 61 questions is unnecessary. Instead, we’ll provide a thematic summary of what kinds of questions will be asked.

  1. How are you planning on implementing these scanning features, and how are they actually predicted to further the stated goals?
  2. Is the possible destruction of end-to-end encryption on chat apps actually going to decrease the amount of CSAM in circulation?
  3. How are citizens going to interact with this system, especially when there are errors made in reporting?
  4. How does this system work with Europol?

We’ll have to wait and see how the full list of questions gets answered, but we hope that the law is not passed in the form it seems to be in right now.

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