In a document that was leaked by the UK-based civil liberties group Statewatch, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, says that the EU Commission ought to introduce rules that would require the companies to help national governments collect data on possible suspects. Mr de Kerchove thinks that telecommunication firms should hand over encryption keys to police and spy agencies as their contribution to the fight against terrorism. He is convinced that internet and communication companies have started to often use “de-centralized encryption which increasingly makes lawful interception by the relevant national authorities technically difficult or even impossible”. He says that this trend has been apparent since Edward Snowden, a former American intelligence contractor, leaked vast amounts of private data in the name of security.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, UK’s David Cameron also supported the vision that British intelligence agencies should be legally able to access and break the encrypted communications. American President Barack Obama later joined and said that it was getting more and more difficult for spy agencies to decrypt suspect communication since the Snowden revelations. “If we find evidence of a terrorist plot … and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can’t penetrate that, that’s a problem,” President Obama said. However, critics are worried that criminals could possibly find loopholes in the system and encourage them to use the sensitive information for cyber-attacks. “Instead of protecting citizens, it will actually endanger citizens’ net security and trample fundamental rights to data protection and privacy,” German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht expressed his concerns in a statement.