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France, Germany Push For EU Encryption Limits

  • Lisa Bryant

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, left, and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve arrive for a joint media conference in Paris, Aug. 23, 2016.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, left, and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve arrive for a joint media conference in Paris, Aug. 23, 2016.

France and Germany are calling on the European Union to adopt common rules to limit messaging encryption, or codes, on social media in the battle against terrorism.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France and Germany do not want to ban encrypted messaging but rather to work with social media groups to limit its use by Islamist radicals.

Speaking alongside his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, Cazeneuve said European intelligence services and magistrates should be able to identify coded messages used by extremists through applications like Telegram and WhatsApp - and use them as evidence against perpetrators. The two countries want European Union member states to discuss common legislation at a meeting next month.

Authorities say Islamist militants are increasingly using encrypted messaging to spread propaganda and facilitate their terrorist operations. Both France and Germany have been hit by several attacks over the summer. Cazeneuve also said French officials had detained seven people this month with suspected terrorism links, including three with clear attack plans.

The U.S. government has also tried to work with tech companies to limit extremist activity. But some opponents argue European governments already have plenty of surveillance instruments and the problem lies elsewhere.

Guillaume Champeau, founder of the digital magazine Numerama, told French radio that authorities should instead rethink their surveillance operations to focus more on local intelligence gathering.

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