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    France, Germany Push for Limits on Encrypted Messaging in Fight Against Terror

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    French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has met with his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere Tuesday (August 23) to unveil a plan to limit the use of encrypted messaging to combat terrorism, as hordes of users switch to platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber to avoid mass surveillance.

    Both France and Germany have been targets of terrorists — many with links to Daesh — and both interior ministers are seeking ways of improving security within the EU, amid criticism of poor intelligence-sharing between member states.

    At a press conference after their meeting, Cazeneuve called for social media operators running encrypted services to cooperate with security services and the police into criminal investigations. 

    "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.

    There is still a huge debate within the EU over mass surveillance — an issue that came to the fore following the revelations by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's GCHQ. 

    Although human rights groups have pushed for only selective, targeted collection of communications data, some countries — such as the UK — are introducing legislation allowing for security services to collect bulk communications data — including telephone records, social media usage and web browsing history — in the fight against terrorism.

    However, many people — including terrorists — are switching to encrypted services for messaging each other, or even the dark web. Ahead of their meeting, Cazeneuve and de Maiziere said they would be looking at options to limit the use of encryption in the fight against terrorism.

    The position is particularly sensitive for France and Germany, as both have been targeted by terrorists or lone wolf attackers, making the subject of security a sensitive matter, ahead of national elections in both countries next year.

    Terror Attacks

    France was rocked in January 2015 by the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, the related hostage-taking in a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in east Paris and the November 13 attacks in which 130 were killed and hundreds injured in a series of shootings and suicide bombs.

    Baker Pascal Clement arranges loafs of bread with Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) written on them in commemoration to the victims of Charlie Hebdo newspaper, Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, in Daillens, Switzerland.
    © East News/ AP Photo/Keystone, Laurent Gillieron
    Baker Pascal Clement arranges loafs of bread with "Je suis Charlie"

    In July 2016, the driver of a 20-ton truck ploughed into crowds along the promenade in Nice killing 84 and injuring scores more.

    On July 18, a 17-year-old youth who had sought asylum in Germany was shot dead by police after wounding five people with an axe on a train near Wurzburg,, in Bavaria, where Merkel's CSU partner party is in power.

    An 18-year-old German-Iranian gunman killed nine people in a shopping mall in Munich — also in Bavaria —  on July 22 injuring dozens more. Ali Sonboly was fixated by mass shootings but did not appear to have any connections with radicalized Muslims, unlike many of the other attacks. 

    On July 24, a 27-year-old Syrian man, who was denied asylum, blew himself up on June 24 outside a music festival in Ansbach — Bavaria — injuring 12 people. Also on July 24, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a pregnant woman and wounding two people with a machete in the southwestern city of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart.

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    Tags:
    privacy rights, terror attacks, bulk collection, encryption, mass surveillance, social media, data collection, terrorism, Daesh, Charlie Hebdo, Thomas De Mazier, Bernard Cazeneuve, Germany, Paris, Munich, Nice, France
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