On November 6, 2020, the Council of the European Union released a “Draft Council Resolution on Encryption.” The document is supposed to serve as a precursor to a final text to be presented to the Council, on November 19 for potential legal adoption. It emphasizes support for data encryption in general, but also notes the challenges that encryption technologies pose for investigators who want to access criminals’ communications.
“The European Union fully supports the development, implementation and use of strong encryption,” the report notes. “However, there are instances where encryption renders analysis of the content of communications in the framework of access to electronic evidence extremely challenging or practically impossible despite the fact that the access to such data would be lawful.”
It goes on to call for a “better balance” between communication encryption and lawful access of that communication, both ensuring the continued implementation of strong encryption technology while also ensuring that “competent authorities must be able to access data in a lawful and targeted manner.”
This call for balance raised a red flag for privacy and encryption advocates around the world. Notably, a report from Austrian publication Radio FM4 falsely labeled this as an “EU ban on encryption” that included requiring platforms like WhatsApp and Signal to create master keys that would allow their end-to-end- (E2E) encrypted chats to be monitored.
Naturally, the privacy-focused Bitcoin community voiced concern about any resolution that would seek to weaken encryption. Though this particular draft resolution does not specifically call for encryption backdoors or loopholes, it offered a chance to consider regulators’ roles in pushing back on technology that allows unmonitored communications.
“There’s no such thing as a balance, you either have encryption or you don’t,” said Alex Galdstein, the chief…