European Commission discusses “Going Dark”: Behind closed doors

EDRi and 20 organisations call on the High Level Group on Access to Data for Effective Law Enforcement for greater transparency and participation of all stakeholders.

By EDRi · January 11, 2024

Based on an initiative led by the former Swedish Presidency of the Council, the European Commission created a High-Level Group (HLG) made of national law enforcement representatives to discuss “access to data for effective law enforcement”, otherwise framed as the “Going Dark” challenge. The objective of this group is to find ways for the EU to legally and technically enable police forces to access more data as well as to circumvent encryption and other crucial security features of all our digital devices.

For digital rights groups, its overall political agenda is particularly concerning. The initiative is guided by the dangerously misleading concept of “security by design” introduced in the Council’s original scoping paper. This notion, although mirroring the key EU data protection obligation of “privacy by design and by default”, seems to actually serve diametrically opposed goals. It would seek to mainstream law enforcement access to data in the development of all technologies, which would be a grave encroachment in everyone’s privacy and online security.

Furthermore, these discussions are happening behind closed doors, shutting down civil society participation.

That’s why EDRi and 20 organisations call on the High Level Group on Access to Data for Effective Law Enforcement for greater transparency and participation of all stakeholders.

Read the open letter

In October 2023 several of our organisations proposed to contribute as civil society experts and participants to the upcoming activities and working sessions of the HLG given their expertise and long-term engagement with the subject matter. However, their requests were turned down and they were invited instead to submit written comments, which, if deemed relevant, could lead to a proper invitation at a later date. 

In the meantime, we learnt that several industry players have been invited to the HLG meetings. This opaque and unequal participation process that may lead to an unbalanced representation of interests can hardly achieve one of the objectives of the HLG which is “to stimulate the interactive participation of all stakeholders and the sharing of different perspectives”.

We also noticed a worrying lack of compliance with several applicable transparency requirements, which further conceals these important societal discussions from the public eye.

We call for a diligent approach to making all possible documents public and proactively engaging with civil society.