This week, the Association of the Internet Industry, together with numerous representatives of German and European industry, academia, and civil society, has criticized in an open letter the plans of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) for wanting to legally oblige providers of messenger services to retroactively alter end-to-end encryption in such a way that authorities can record the entire communication of users in cases which have raised suspicion.
eco board member Prof. Norbert Pohlmann: “This profound encroachment, which thwarts IT security and manipulates the existing complex software systems of messenger service providers, is out of all proportion to the as yet unproven benefit in the fight against crime. However, it is highly likely that these unnecessarily provoked vulnerabilities will be exploited in the future by intelligence services and criminals in order to obtain sensitive information from users, the authorities, and companies.”
eco also criticizes the fact that so far there has been insufficient evaluation of whether the methods of online state searches and telecommunications surveillance at the source, which have already been granted to law enforcement officers and to a certain extent to police authorities, are effective at all and whether associated risks have arisen. The law enforcement agencies have so far documented very little regarding the number of cases where encrypted communication has actually brought investigations to a halt.
“With the intention of installing backdoors in messenger services, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) is directly moving away from its obligations to protect the population and the economy as a whole. The BMI’s current plans for an IT Security Act and a Harmonization Act for the Protection of the Constitution also provide for a continuous expansion of state surveillance of the entire population,” said Prof. Pohlmann.
In addition to eco – Association of the Internet industry, the letter was signed by a broad alliance of signatories, including: the former Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), the Schleswig-Holstein State Commissioner for Data Protection Marit Hansen, Wolfgang Kleinwächter from the Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace, Phil Zimmermann, the inventor of PGP encryption, the German Federal Association for IT Security (TeleTrusT), the German Association for the Mittelstand (BVMV), Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and Wikimedia Deutschland, as well as various scientists, computer scientists, and civil rights activists.