EU: Interior ministers to debate ways to increase police access to digital data


"It is therefore important to have a broad policy discussion at the highest political level on the challenges and way forward in relation to the underlying question: what is required, in concrete terms, in order to ensure an operationally sufficient level of access to data for authorities that are responsible for public/internal security, including to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our societies."

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See: NOTE from: Presidency to: Delegations: The digital dimension of investigating child sexual abuse: challenges and way forward (Council doc. 12060/21, LIMITE, 28 September 2021, pdf)

The paper is intended to inform discussion at the Justice and Home Affairs Council this Thursday, where "Ministers will hold a debate on the digital dimension of investigating child sexual abuse".

The Presidency's paper is primarily concerned with the use of encrypted communication methods, how law enforcement authorities can deal with "big data" and whether there should be a more proactive role for social media and other online service companies in reporting potential child abuse.

However, while it is primarily framed around the issue of child sexual exploitation, this is not the only concern - as the first sentence of the note says: "Virtually all criminal activity, ranging from terrorism and serious forms of organised crime to petty crime, now features a strong digital dimension."

Any powers introduced in the name of addressing child abuse could of course be extended to investigations into other matters - as the first sentence of the note says:

Furthermore, as has long-been pointed out, there is no way for the authorities to obtain a 'backdoor' into encrypted systems without undermining the security of all users.

The Slovenian Presidency puts the following questions to interior ministers:

"What are the most immediate objectives and how can access to data for competent authorities be guaranteed in order to effectively counter the exploitation of the digital dimension to commit crimes, especially against children?

How can the role of social media, hosting services and electronic communications services be strengthened to protect children and to prevent the circulation of child sexual abuse content via their services? What should be the role of proactive measures in addressing the specific phenomenon of child sexual abuse online?"

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