Meredith Whittaker, head of the messaging service Signal, has announced drastic consequences if a controversial bill on so-called chat control is implemented. She described the plan as “surveillance wine in security bottles”.

The EU Commission presented a first draft law on so-called chat control back in May 2022. However, critics complained that the draft misses the actual goal of protecting against child abuse. Rather, chat control would create an unprecedented surveillance tool.

Chat control: Signal threatens to withdraw from Europe

The EU Commission then revised the draft. In order to make the proposal quorate, the current Belgian Council Presidency published a compromise proposal at the end of May 2024. In essence, the new draft stipulates that services such as WhatsApp and Co. should identify, report and, if necessary, remove criminally relevant content.

However, this represents a major invasion of privacy. If chat control is implemented in its current form, the messenger service Signal will apparently cease operations in Europe. President Meredith Whittaker announced this on X (formerly Twitter).

Compromise proposal also causes disagreement

The Signal boss described the EU Commission's plan as “surveillance wine in a security bottle”. However, the messenger service should remain active in Europe “until the end”. Whittaker commented:

We stand with the people of Europe and their right to privacy, whatever the Commission does. But we will not comply with a mandate that undermines our data protection guarantees.

If chat control were to come into force in its current form, failure to comply would, according to Meredith Whittaker, result in Signal being excluded from the European market: “We would rather leave the EU market than undermine our data protection guarantees.”

Whether it will really come to that is still unclear. The European Parliament has already agreed on a negotiating position. However, the EU member states are still arguing about the key aspects of the proposal. If at least
If four states with a share of at least 35 percent of the EU population object, the draft is likely to fail.

So far, Germany, Poland and France in particular have submitted their vetoes. However, the French government is now more open to the compromise proposal – even though courts could overturn the law again. The EU Commission has announced further negotiations.

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