EU To Ban WhatsApp And Other Apps That Uses End to End Encryption

EU To Ban WhatsApp And Other Apps That End to End Encryption Apps

WhatsApp is the most used instant messaging app in Spain, by far; it is also one of the easiest ways to communicate simply and safely.

Contrary to what some hoaxes may say, WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted (also known as "point-to-point"); that means that only participants in a conversation can read it. Neither the Government, nor Facebook itself, are able to read these messages, and therefore cannot control what is sent by WhatsApp.

That is why more and more countries are blocking or banning WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps that encrypt messages; And now, the European Union has taken a step in that direction, but does that mean that this protection has its days numbered?

Regulation against WhatsApp

The controversy has started in Austria, where the media have reported a new resolution of the Council of the European Union in which there is talk of banning end-to-end encryption.

The Council is made up of ministers from all member countries of the European Union, and would have made the decision after the terrorist attack in Vienna last week.

The draft decision (pdf) has already been made public, and indeed, we found paragraphs in which we found references that may be concerning for end-to-end encryption. Specifically, it is said that state security forces must be able to access content in a readable and usable format when there is legal authorization; something that is impossible if the connection is really encrypted.

This and other inclusions in the text are the ones that have raised the alarm among cybersecurity experts and advocates of privacy on the Internet; the fear now is that the EU will use this resolution as the basis for new legislation banning encryption in the name of national security.

However, a more careful analysis of the text reveals that the resolution may not have that objective, thanks in part to some inconsistencies and the very nature of the text.

Why doesn't it mean anything (yet)

For starters, the text never specifies that end-to-end encryption should be prohibited; in fact, the subject of the resolution speaks of " Security with encryption and security despite encryption".

In other words, the text focuses more on how it is possible to protect national security, even with the "obstacle" and the "challenge" that the police forces cannot access the content of messages from potential terrorists.

However, at no point does he speak of the need to eliminate encryption to overcome these challenges, and in fact, a "better balance" is suggested between the powers of judicial authorities and respect for freedoms such as private communications and protection of personal data, without going into detail in any case.

The best indicator that this resolution does not represent an attack against encryption is that it does not present any concrete measures to solve this problem that it presents; it only asks that there be debate and that governments, the technology industry and researchers work together to find that aforementioned balance.

Above all, it must be borne in mind that the Council of the EU does not create laws; it is the European Commission that would have to register legislation that was voted on by the chambers. This text, which by the way is not yet finished and is subject to change, is just a "suggestion" from the ministers, and it all depends on how the Commission will interpret it and the measures it will take if any.

The controversy over encryption is not exactly new, and there are some countries that have already taken action on the matter. The British government, for example, intends to incorporate a "back door" in applications like WhatsApp, but that will not apply in the European Union thanks to "Brexit"; the defeat of Donald Trump, who also sought to ban crypto in the US, may force a change in plans.

So for the moment, end-to-end encryption is not in jeopardy in the European Union, although it will all depend on how the tech sector will evolve and whether a way is discovered to balance personal security with that of the country.

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