Monthly Archives: September, 2017

Who is Mariya Gabriel and what happened with LIBE’s proposal on the ban on backdooring end-to-end encryption?

September 7th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Who is Mariya Gabriel and what happened with LIBE’s proposal on the ban on backdooring end-to-end encryption?”

Written by Doris Bogunović who will share monthly blog posts with us to introduce key members of the European institutions working on legislative proposals related to technology. She has a legal background, a keen interest in technology as well as experience with both the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Parliament.

In June 2017, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in the European Parliament (EP) put forward a proposal amending the EU’s charter of fundamental rights in order to prevent governments of the EU Member States (MS) from backdooring end-to-end encrypted services.

End-to-end encryption, as a communication system, implies that only the communicating users can read the messages within a certain conversation. A good example of E2E encrypted services is the latest version of Whatsapp application. In practice, messages transmitted between two Whatsapp users should not be eavesdropped by telecom providers, Internet providers or Whatsapp itself and the service provider does not possess the decryption key.

EU leaders like France, Germany and soon to be a former MS the UK are giving priority to their counterterrorism quests. The proposal includes the prohibition of any kind of decryption, reverse engineering or monitoring of encrypted communications. Leaders of the countries opposing LIBE’s proposition raise complaints against the latter proposal due to borderline situations in which one should digress from strict rules impeding counterterrorism acts.

One of the potential problems they are considering is that service providers would not possess the decryption key, which would make it impossible for the governments to access possibly useful data in cases of terrorist threats or attacks.

If the latter proposal was to become a law, it should be supported by both the EP and the EU Council – the position of the EU Commission is still unknown.

On 4th of July, during the last plenary session of the European Parliament, former MEP and the youngest member of the EP, Mariya Gabriel was appointed as the European Commission’s commissioner-designate for the digital economy and society portfolio to replace the former deputy Commissioner Kristaline Georgiev on the proposal of the Bulgarian government.

During her two consecutive terms, the former MEP proved herself capable of carrying out responsible tasks. She worked in the field of visa policy and foreign affairs and as a rapporteur on two reports that allowed Ukrainians and Georgians to enter the Schengen area without a visa for up to 90 days. Mariya Gabriela is a long-awaited replacement for former Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger and she will be working closely with Andrus Ansip, the current European Commissioner for Digital Single Market and Vice President of the European Commission, who was in charge of the digital portfolio since Oettinger left the position. Mariya Gabriela has no prior experience with the digital portfolio but her new position is primarily a political function and she is able to acquire the necessary technical knowledge along the way.

She was off to a bit of a palish start and there was a ray of disappointment among the MEP’s due to her ambiguous and contradictory responses on some tech-related topics during the 2.5 hours session held on the day of her appointment to confirm her new role. She responded to a vast number of technology related questions, but when asked about the position of the EC on end-to-end encryption her responses weren’t as specific as expected. Despite the latter, it was a successful session altogether.

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