Written Question: Encryption technologies in the context of WTO e-commerce negotiations

(Source: European Parliament)

Date Submitted: 12 May 2021

Question for written answer E-002576/2021

to the Commission

Rule 138

Svenja Hahn (Renew)

Subject: Encryption technologies in the context of WTO e-commerce negotiations

A document dated 14 December 2020 setting out the state of negotiations in the WTO on e-commerce was recently made public. Article 2(3)(a) of Section C.3 provides that no Party may require manufacturers of commercial cryptographic products to disclose their mode of operation or the private keys of users.

At the same time, paragraphs 2 and 4 of the same Article provide for exceptions for law enforcement authorities, pursuant to which service providers may be required to provide access to encrypted and unencrypted communications, and manufacturers of commercial encryption technology to divulge information.

In a 2020 Council Resolution, the Council committed itself to supporting strong encryption. At the same time, it stated: ‘Competent authorities must be able to access data in a lawful and targeted manner, in full respect of fundamental rights and the relevant data protection laws, while upholding cybersecurity.’

1. Does the Commission agree with the proposed text, which would allow law enforcement authorities to oblige providers to give access to encrypted messages?

2. In the Commission’s view, does the proposal allow for legislative proposals in individual Contracting States requiring providers of encrypted communication services to create backdoors?

3. To what extent have the negotiations taken account of the considerations of relevant stakeholders regarding fundamental rights, who deem encrypted communications to be indispensable for the protection of privacy and who warn against the softening of encryption through backdoors and similar measures?

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