September 13, 2023 – EU countries are preparing to agree their position on the draft EU Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) Regulation, commonly known as “chat control”.(1) This proposed law is unprecedented: it could force companies to scan everyone’s private digital communications, on behalf of governments, all of the time.
Legal experts advising EU governments have warned that in its current form, the CSA Regulation would likely violate the rights of hundreds of millions of people in Europe, without any suspicion that they have done something wrong. (2) It could also force everyone to undergo ID checks in order to access the internet, threatening digital exclusion for those without the ‘right’ documents.
Regardless of the broad concerns raised about the CSA Regulation,(3) EU governments have so far failed to make essential changes to protect human rights, including privacy, free expression and the presumption of innocence. Nevertheless, they propose to exclude their own government communications from the rules, in a shocking admission that otherwise, the law would violate their right to confidentiality of communications.(4)
Hundreds of academics, including those from 19 EU countries, have warned that the proposal is technically dangerous and poses a serious threat to encryption.(5) This could put the 2 billion people worldwide who rely on encryption to keep their digital lives safe and secure at risk – including the very children this law aims to protect.
At least eight EU countries have reportedly attempted to address some of the major problems with the proposal.(6) Parliamentarians in the Czech Republic, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and France have also spoken up for their constituents against the mass intrusion of our digital private lives.(7)
Despite this, EU Home Affairs Ministers seem set to adopt a joint position on the CSA Regulation which would be illegal under EU human rights law.
As 87 groups dedicated to upholding democracy and to protecting digital rights, the open use of the internet, human rights defenders, women and children’s rights and more, we call on all EU governments to say no to the CSA Regulation until it fully protects rights, freedoms and security online.
(1) The Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU Council are reportedly aiming to vote on a General Approach at the Home Affairs meeting on 28 September 2023. The agenda has not yet been published, however, so this meeting could still be postponed.
(5) Joint statement of scientists and researchers on EU’s proposed Child Sexual Abuse Regulation, 4 July 2023.
(6) According to documents published by Netzpolitik, the governments of Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Sweden, Estonia and Poland have all expressed concerns with the Council text date 1 August (in DE). The more recent text, dated 8 September, does not solve the serious human rights issues raised in this letter.
(7) See footnote 3.
Pan-European and international:
Alternatif Bilisim (AiA-Alternative Informatics Association)
Civil Liberties Union for Europe
Centre for Democracy & Technology, Europe
CloudPirat – Defend Your Digital Freedom
Committee to Protect Journalists
Electronic Frontier Foundation – EFF
European Digital Rights (EDRi)
European Sex Workers Rights Alliance (ESWA)
The Georgia Tech Internet
INSPIRIT Creatives NGO, CIVICUS
Member, Human Rights & Civil Society
International Online Safety Corp (IOSCORP)
Open Privacy Tech Foundation (OPTF) Ltd
Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN)
Centre for Peace Studies
NoLog z. s.
Nejtil5G.dk: Videnscentret for elektro-forurening
Electronic Frontier Finland
La Quadrature du Net
Chaos Computer Club
D64 – Zentrum für Digitalen Fortschritt e. V.
German Bar Association (Deutscher Anwaltverein)
Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.
Humanistische Union e.V.
HYDRA e.V. Treffpunkt und Beratung für Prostituierte
Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie
Digital Rights Ireland
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
SWIPE – Sex Workers
Intersectional Peer Education
Bits of Freedom
Prostitution Information Center
Associação D3 – Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
Associação Portuguesa para a Promoção da Segurança da Informação (AP2SI)
ESOP – Associação de Empresas de Software Open Source
Internet Society Portugal Chapter
ApTI – Asocia ia pentru ț Tehnologie i Internet ș
Danes je nov dan, Inštitut za druga vprašanja
Digital Society Forum
Državljan D / Citizen D
ISOC-CAT (Internet Society Catalan Chapter)
5 of July foundation
Red Umbrella Sweden
Defend Digital Me – United Kingdom
Digital Society – Switzerland
Elektronisk Forpost Norge (EFN) – Norway
NGO 35MM – Montenegro
Africa Media and Information Technology Initiative (AFRIMITI) – Nigeria
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
Digital Woman Uganda
Webfala Digital Skills for all
Initiative – Nigeria
La fédération sénégalaise des acteurs de l’environnement – Sénégal
L’association pour la défense des droits à l’eau et à l’assainissement du Sénégal
YOUTH FORUM FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE – Uganda
North, Central and South America:
Aspiration – US
Fight for the Future – US
ISOC Brazil – Brazilian Chapter of the Internet Society
Internet Society chapter Dominican Republic
Superbloom – US
JCA-NET – Japan
Douwe Korff, Professor of