EU: Police to support anti-encryption policy development


A police "operational action plan" on preventing child sexual abuse includes a requirement for almost 30 states and EU agencies to gather five case studies, each intended to contribute to EU "policy development" on preventing and combating sexual abuse. While few would disagree with the ends, it is likely that one of the proposed means will be to undermine encryption, threatening the privacy and safety of all users of digital communications technologies.

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See: Operational Action Plan 2022: Child sexual exploitation (Council doc. 13589/1/21 REV 1, LIMITE, 30 November 2021, pdf) and the previous version: 13589/21 (pdf)

Under 'Strategic Goal 7', the document states the aim of operational action 7.1:

"To develop an evidence base of child sexual abuse cases to support policy development, including the work on the:

  • upcoming legislative instrument on preventing and combatting child sexual abuse, including by requiring online service providers to detect and report child sexual abuse material,
  • the study to identify gaps and good practices, supporting the evaluation of the EU Directive on combating child sexual abuse"

Child sexual abuse has become one of the key driving factors in policy discussions on encryption. As a justification for the need for "technical solutions" to access encrypted data, it appears to have overtaken the needs of counter-terrorism, "which effectively sparked the current encryption debate," back in 2016, according to the Carnegie Endowment.

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