ENDitorial: After Paris – selling freedom for security

By EDRi · December 2, 2015

Shortly after the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland stated: “Terrorists can’t destroy our democracies, only we can do that”.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, European Parliament adopted amendments to its Report on “the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations”, demanding that Internet companies should be pressured into censoring online content by the threat of criminal sanctions, and demanding that Internet companies cooperate in unspecified ways to help undermine encryption.

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There is evidence that censorship can be counterproductive in fighting terrorism, but no evidence that criminal sanctions for Internet companies will keep us any safer.

There is no evidence that ad hoc weakening of encryption by “cooperation” with Internet companies will make us safer, while weakening a security tool will clearly make use less secure.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, governments demanded the rapid adoption of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive on mass collection of air traveller data and profiling based on this data (and “other” databases).

There is no evidence that mass data collection and profiling would have served any purpose in relation to terrorism. There are already multiple databases being used to track travel movements.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, the EU Council started questioning whether the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling which overturned the Directive on mass telecommunications data really prevents mass storage of telecommunications data.

In the CJEU court hearing, neither the EU Commission nor Member States were able to provide evidence of the effectiveness of data retention in the fight against terrorism, nor any logic behind the retention periods being demanded.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, the European Commission announced (again) the launch of the “EU Internet Forum”, a behind-closed-doors and off-the-books way of governments putting pressure on online companies to police and censor content.

Anti-terrorism measures that are not based on laws, that have no democratic legitimacy, that have no evidence base, that have no review mechanisms and that have no oversight are unlikely to make us safer.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, environmental activists were put under house arrest under French “emergency” powers introduced after the attacks. Abuses of power do not make us safer. A pretty much identical project was launched using European Commission funding and failed in 2012.

“Terrorists can’t destroy our democracies, only we can do that.”

European Parliament resolution of 25 November 2015 on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations (2015/2063(INI)) (25.11.2015)

Paris climate activists put under house arrest using emergency laws (27.11.2015)

EU Council: Retention of electronic communication data – General debate (26.11.2015)

Harlem Désir: “We urgently need an effective PNR system” (27.11.2015)

Jihad Trending: A comprehensive analysis of online extremism and how to counter it

(Contribution by Joe McNamee, EDRi)