Privacy watchdogs slam proposed EU rules on online child pornography

The European Data Protection Board and the European Data Protection Supervisor say the European Commission’s proposal could pose more risks to individuals and society as a whole than to criminals prosecuted for child pornography material

BRUSSELS, Belgium — European Union (EU) privacy watchdogs on Friday slammed proposed rules to tackle online child sexual abuse, saying their potential impact on privacy and data of individuals posed risks to fundamental rights and could harm the children they were intended to protect.

Under regulations proposed by the EU executive in May, Google, Meta and other online service providers would be required to search, remove and report child pornography online.

Companies failing to comply with the rules would face fines of up to 6% of their annual income or global turnover.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said the European Commission’s proposal could pose more risks to individuals and society as a whole than to criminals prosecuted for child pornography.

“There is no doubt that the sexual abuse of children is a most heinous crime that demands prompt and effective action, but the proposal as it stands contains serious flaws,” said the vice president of the ‘EDPB, Ventsislav Karadjov, in a statement.

The two independent EU bodies said the proposal lacks legal certainty, endangers end-to-end encryption and could lead to detection orders that harm those they seek to protect by exposing children to surveillance or eavesdropping.

The rules would apply to hosting services and interpersonal communication services such as email services, app stores and internet service providers.

The European Commission said its proposal aims to replace a system of voluntary detection and reporting by companies that had proven insufficient to protect children.

He cited more than one million reports of child sexual abuse in the 27-nation bloc in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a factor in the 64% increase in such reports in 2021 compared to the previous year. On top of that, 60% of child pornography material in the world is hosted on EU servers. – Rappler.com

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