Policing the internet: interior ministers to seek "solutions regarding data retention, encryption, e-evidence and the darknet"


A high-level conference organised by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU will commit participating states to finding "appropriate solutions regarding data retention, encryption, e-evidence and the darknet," in the name of combating child sexual abuse.

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The conference is taking place next week in Slovenia and will involve interior ministers from EU and Schengen states, Western Balkans countries and the United States of America, along with representatives of the European Commission, Europol, Eurojust and the European Parliament.

A draft ministerial joint statement obtained by Statewatch (pdf), submitted to the Permanent Representatives Committee for approval on 29 October, says "guaranteeing law enforcement access to data needed for the protection of victims, and the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse is of paramount importance."

This will require "appropriate solutions regarding data retention, encryption, e-evidence and the darknet environment," according to the document, which goes on to say:

"Any solutions should fully respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all users concerned, including on privacy, protection of personal data and fair trial guarantees."

It has been repeatedly underscored by cybersecurity experts that there are no "solutions" to encryption in the sense sought by states across the world - namely, through the provision of some sort of 'back door' access to encrypted data.

Discussions on potential new EU-level telecommunications data retention measures are ongoing and proposals may be on the horizon, years after the Court of Justice struck down the Data Retention Directive.

New e-evidence rules are also under discussion in the Council and the Parliament.

However, the international nature of the conference - and, indeed, of cybercrime - suggests that greater global coordination and cooperation will be sought by states.

See: Presidency to: Permanent Representatives Committee: Ministerial conference on the prevention and investigation of child sexual abuse - draft Joint Statement - Approval (Council doc. 13301/21, LIMITE, 29 October 2021, pdf)

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