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EU’s Digital Chief Can’t Commit Re: Encryption

Good luck decrypting Europe’s incoming digital chief’s views on encryption. In international news this week, the commissioner-designate, Mariya Gabriel, responded to questions from the European Parliament on Tuesday, June 20, with non-committal answers that did little to assuage members’ concerns.

Gabriel said she supported guarantees that strong encryption should include no governmental backdoors. This security would help boost consumer trust in digital services. But moments later, she spoke of the regulations that would need to be placed on such backdoors, suggesting that they should be allowed after all — “within very strict conditions” only.

Mariya Gabriel may have been trying to strike a balance that would empower the government when necessary without creating loopholes in digital services for criminals.

“We need to give our own institutions the means to move forward, but we also need to make sure that those very same instruments are not being used by others for purposes other than the positive purposes that we had in mind,” she said.

Julia Reda, a member of Parliament, accused Gabriel of contradicting herself, but Gabriel did not take the opportunity to clarify.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, who has been interim commissioner following the reappointment of prior digital chief Günther Oettinger to another area of responsibility, has also said that the encryption issue is “not black and white” when it comes to its role in security and law enforcement.

He did, however, tweet in March that “weakening encryption is not an option” and has spoken out against governmental backdoors, which is more than Gabriel has done so far.

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