EU Court of Human Rights Rejects Encryption Backdoors

EU Court of Human Rights Rejects Encryption Backdoors

Schneier on Security [[{„value“:“

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that breaking end-to-end encryption by adding backdoors violates human rights:

Seemingly most critically, the [Russian] government told the ECHR that any intrusion on private lives resulting from decrypting messages was “necessary” to combat terrorism in a democratic society. To back up this claim, the government pointed to a 2017 terrorist attack that was “coordinated from abroad through secret chats via Telegram.” The government claimed that a second terrorist attack that year was prevented after the government discovered it was being coordinated through Telegram chats.

However, privacy advocates backed up Telegram’s claims that the messaging services couldn’t technically build a backdoor for governments without impacting all its users. They also argued that the threat of mass surveillance could be enough to infringe on human rights. The European Information Society Institute (EISI) and Privacy International told the ECHR that even if governments never used required disclosures to mass surveil citizens, it could have a chilling effect on users’ speech or prompt service providers to issue radical software updates weakening encryption for all users.

In the end, the ECHR concluded that the Telegram user’s rights had been violated, partly due to privacy advocates and international reports that corroborated Telegram’s position that complying with the FSB’s disclosure order would force changes impacting all its users.

The “confidentiality of communications is an essential element of the right to respect for private life and correspondence,” the ECHR’s ruling said. Thus, requiring messages to be decrypted by law enforcement “cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society.”

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