Detection Orders Ylva Johansson

Ylva Johansson

AN INCREASINGLY burning issue concerns multinationals and states accessing the public’s personal data. In the last month alone, politicians in Ireland have voiced concern over the use of TikTok on official devices, while Meta Ireland has been taken to task by the Data Protection Commission for transferring personal data across the Atlantic into the US.

But there has not been a focus on the privacy implications of the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) regulation proposed by EU commissioner Ylva Johansson, which allows for “detection orders” to be issued to the providers of “interpersonal communication services” (text, email, direct messages etc).

There are many multinational companies that provide such communication services – such as Meta, Twitter, Google and TikTok – which have their European headquarters in Ireland.

The CSAM regulation would allow for artificial intelligence (AI) tools to be used regularly to scan private communications, personal pictures and documents saved to cloud storage with the declared aim of stopping the spread of child sexual abuse material.

There has been kickback against the proposal and a leaked opinion of the Legal Service of the Council of the European Union (CLS) has questioned whether the detection orders conform to articles 7 and 8 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The CLS also claimed that the regulation would end with the “(i) abandoning effective end-to-end encryption or (ii) introducing some form of ‘back-door’ to access encrypted content or (iii) accessing the content on the device of the user before it is encrypted (so-called ‘client-side scanning’)”.

Signal and WhatsApp, the two messaging services where end-to-end encryption is a big draw for users, would be seriously compromised by these detection orders.

There is some irony in the commission’s determination to undermine the security of end-to-end encryption messaging services – in February 2020, it notified its own staff on internal messaging boards that “Signal has been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging”.

Related Articles: