3 minute read

In the ongoing debate over the EU’s Child Sexual Abuse Regulation, commonly known as Chat Control, a glaring double standard has emerged. According to the latest draft, politicians, police, and intelligence officers will be exempt from the proposed surveillance measures, while ordinary citizens’ communications will be subject to wiretapping. This discrepancy not only undermines the fundamental principle of equality before the law but also poses significant risks to security, democracy, and ethical governance.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrines the principle that “all persons are equal before the law.” However, exempting politicians and police from surveillance measures starkly contradicts this principle. When those in power are not held to the same standards as the public, it erodes trust in governmental and law enforcement institutions. This can have far-reaching consequences, undermining the very foundations of democracy.

Unchecked power is a recipe for abuse. Politicians and police wield significant authority, and exempting them from surveillance increases the risk of this power being misused. Historical precedents like the Watergate scandal highlight the dangers of a lack of oversight. By creating a surveillance-free zone for those in power, we open the door to potential corruption and misconduct.

Transparency and accountability are cornerstones of democracy. When politicians and police are exempt from surveillance, it creates a transparency deficit, making it more difficult to hold them accountable for their actions. This lack of accountability can lead to public disillusionment and apathy towards democratic processes, weakening the very fabric of our society.

Exempting certain groups from surveillance not only creates ethical concerns but also security vulnerabilities. Criminals could exploit these exemptions by infiltrating or colluding with exempt individuals. Internal threats, such as infiltration within police forces, have historically posed significant risks. Allowing such exemptions increases the likelihood of sensitive information being leaked to criminal organisations.

Leaders and those in positions of authority have a moral responsibility to set an example. Exempting them from surveillance sends the message that they are above the law and not subject to the same ethical standards as ordinary citizens. This double standard suggests that the privacy of ordinary citizens is less valuable, an indefensible position in a society that values equality and justice.

Politicians exempt from surveillance have more freedom to manipulate legislation in their favour without fear of their actions being monitored and exposed. This freedom can lead to increased corruption and lobbying activities, undermining the democratic process. If those in power are not subject to the same scrutiny as the public, it creates an environment ripe for exploitation.

The inaccuracy of snooping algorithms is a significant concern. These algorithms often generate false positives, capturing irrelevant data such as family photos or consensual sexting, which police admit are of no use. The fact that officials seek exemption implies a recognition of these flaws. Moreover, it is impossible for providers and algorithms to guarantee that professional secrets will not be leaked. Sensitive information, such as medical or legal documents, could inadvertently be exposed, causing significant harm.

If the true goal is child protection, then the focus should be on developing best practices for preventing child sexual abuse. The EU ministers’ rejection of this approach suggests that the real aim of the bill is mass surveillance, not child protection. Effective child protection requires scientific evaluation and multidisciplinary prevention programmes, including standardised guidelines for criminal investigations. These comprehensive solutions are noticeably absent from the current proposal.

The exemption of politicians and police from surveillance is a dangerous and hypocritical policy that undermines the principles of equality, accountability, and transparency. It poses significant risks to security, democracy, and ethical governance. To maintain public trust and uphold democratic values, all individuals, regardless of their position, must be subject to the same standards of surveillance and accountability. The EU must focus on genuine child protection measures rather than implementing a mass surveillance system that serves other interests.