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No trade-off between security and privacy, says Claude Moraes MEP

Any legislation on encryption should be preceded by an in depth and careful reflection process, says EU Civil Liberties Committee chair Claude Moraes

Encryption is all about privacy and security rather than privacy versus security, says EU Civil Liberties Committee chair and MEP for London, Claude Moraes.

His comments follow a visit by seven committee members to the US for talks with the US administration, Congress, Bipartisan working group on encryption, and Silicon Valley firms.

The committee members included fellow Briton Timothy Kirkhope, MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, and Germany’s Jan Philipp Albrecht, the rapporteur of the European Parliament for the EU's General Data Protection Regulation and the EU-US Privacy Shield data protection framework agreement.

In addition to meeting representatives of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and some technology startups, the committee met non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The meeting included discussions on the EU-US Privacy Shield proposal, the recently approved GDPR, big data, encryption and hate speech versus freedom of expression.

“Encryption enhances security of communications so as to make them safer and prevent data breaches, identity theft and cyber-attacks of critical infrastructures, thereby enhancing consumer trust on on-line communications,” Moraes said.

“Legitimate law enforcement and national security concerns should be addressed within this context with front-door solutions while ensuring due respect of fundamental rights.”

Encryption legislation gathers pace

According to Moraes, the discussion in the US on encryption and law enforcement consideration showed that an in-depth and careful reflection process with all interested parties is needed before putting forward hasty legislation.

The debate around encryption, particularly in the US, has become increasingly heated since whistleblower Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelation of US mass surveillance of internet communications.

Moraes’s statement came a day after a group of bipartisan US senators introduced a bill aimed at blocking a pending judicial rule change that will allow US judges to issue search warrants for remote access to computers in any jurisdiction.

The group seeks to block the rule change with the Stop Mass Hacking bill, arguing that the rule change will expand the FBI’s hacking authority, according to Reuters.

Civil liberties groups voice concerns

Co-author of the bill, Democratic senator Ron Wyden, said in a statement that the change would have “an enormous impact on Americans’ constitutional rights should be debated by Congress, not maneuvered through an obscure bureaucratic process”.

The US Justice Department claims the rule change is needed to “modernise” the criminal code for the digital era of cyber criminals.

The UK government is using a similar argument to justify the Investigatory Powers Bill, which has also raised the concerns of civil liberties groups and technology firms, including encryption service providers.

The US Congress has until 1 December 2016 to reject, amend or postpone the change to the federal rules of criminal procedure.

Civil liberties groups say the change should be properly authorised by Congress and could violate the constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

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