Europe privacy watchdogs criticize EU proposal to prevent and combat online child sexual abuse
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Europe privacy watchdogs criticize EU proposal to prevent and combat online child sexual abuse

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) have released a joint opinion criticizing the European Union’s (EU) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. The EDPB and the EDPS are independent privacy watchdogs in the EU.

In May, the European Commission proposed new legislation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse online, finding the current system of voluntary detecting and reporting by companies inadequate. The proposal would apply to providers of information society services: hosting services, interpersonal communication services and internet access services.

The proposal would require providers to detect, report, remove, and block known and new online child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and solicitation of children (grooming) based on detection orders. The proposal also seeks to establish an EU agency to implement the regulation.

The EDPB and the EDPS on Friday expressed serious concerns about the impact of the proposal on the fundamental rights to privacy and the protection of personal data. Their joint opinion finds a lack of legal clarity about when and where detection orders and interferences by authorities may be allowed.

Further, the watchdogs called for removing provisions related to grooming and scanning audio communications from the proposal’s scope. They said that the measures will enable access to communication content on a general basis to detect CSAM and grooming, in violation of Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The EDPB and the EDPS find the scanning of audio communications highly intrusive and disproportionate.

The watchdogs also doubt the efficiency of blocking orders. They found the provisions requiring decryption by internet service providers disproportionate and harming the fundamental rights to private life and confidentiality of communications, freedom of expression, and the growth of the digital economy.

The proposal is currently pending with the European Parliament.