New report on encryption in criminal matters stresses balance between security and privacy

21 June 2024
Knowledge Base

The EU Innovation Hub for Internal Security, of which Eurojust is one of the main partners, has on 10 June published its first report on the use of encrypted communications in criminal investigations. The report stresses the balance that needs to be struck between securing private communications and fundamental rights, while enabling investigations and prosecutions to combat organised crime and terrorism.

The report gives an overview of the use of encrypted communication tools such as EncroChat and SkyECC by criminal networks and analyses the topic of encryption from a legal, technical, policy and research point of view. The publication also touches on specific judicial processes and court rulings.

Furthermore, the new report includes an elaborate analysis of the recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union of 30 April this year on encrypted communications. This ruling clarifies the conditions for EU Member States to request and transmit intercepted data from encrypted communication channels for use as evidence in criminal proceedings, in order to safeguard fundamental rights and enable continued investigations into criminal activities.

The publication also provides technical information on new developments and tools such as quantum computing, cryptocurrencies, biometric data, telecommunications and artificial intelligence. It also presents an overview of the challenges and opportunities they represent for judicial and law enforcement authorities.

The main ideas in the conclusions and recommendations are:

  • Introducing legal frameworks for lawful access to data and the use of encrypted communications in judicial proceedings is paramount for achieving the right balance between privacy and security.
  • Further research and monitoring of technologies using cryptography, such as telecommunications (5G, 6G networks), biometrics, DNS, the blockchain and quantum computing, are needed to ensure both lawful access to data and privacy.
  • Collaboration with academia and private industry is essential for the creation of new tools to both serve criminal investigations without compromising the overall security of communications.
  • Artificial intelligence solutions can both help and hinder efforts to fight serious and organised crime, requiring a multi-faceted and collaborative approach.
  • While quantum computing can significantly improve investigations, it also poses a significant threat to encryption, requiring a swift transition to post-quantum cryptography.

The report is the result of the pooling of expertise of all partners collaborating in the EU Innovation Hub for Internal Security, hosted at Europol, including the EU Agencies CEPOL, EIGE, EUAA, Eurojust, Europol, Frontex, FRA and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union (including the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator’s Office), as well as the European Commission (Directorate Generals JRC and Home).

Click here to read the full report.

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