Monday 20 January 2020

Messaging app data sought by EU states in the war on terror

Mourners at the scene of the terrorist attack by a truck driver in the city of Nice. Photo: Kyran O'Brien.
Mourners at the scene of the terrorist attack by a truck driver in the city of Nice. Photo: Kyran O'Brien.

Chine Labbe, Michel Rose and Andrea Shalal

France and Germany said they want to compel operators of mobile messaging services to allow state security agencies access to encrypted content to aid terrorism investigations, joining forces after a series of deadly attacks in both countries.

They also want more cross border sharing of personal data.

French intelligence services, on high alert since attackers killed scores of civilians in Paris in November and in Nice in July, are struggling to intercept messages from Islamist militants.

Many of the groups now favour encrypted messaging services over mainstream social media, with jihadist Islamic State a big user of such apps, investigators claim.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the European Commission should draft a law obliging operators to co-operate in judicial investigations into tracking down terrorists.

"If such legislation was adopted, this would allow us to impose obligations at the European level on non-cooperative operators," he told a joint conference with his German counterpart in Paris.

Mr Cazeneuve singled out the app operated by Telegram, which he said did not co-operate with governments, adding that legislation should target both EU and non-EU companies.

A spokesman for Telegram did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Telegram, founded by Russian national Pavel Durov in 2013 and incorporated in several jurisdictions, promotes itself as ultra-secure because it encrypts all data from the start of transmission to the finish.

A number of other services, including Facebook's WhatsApp, say they have similar capabilities. Mr Cazeneuve's initiative has come under fire from privacy and digital experts, who warned against opening "backdoors" that would let governments read content.

Opponents say terrorists would simply create alternative messaging systems, while ordinary users' privacy would be compromised. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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