Interior ministers of France and Germany have called for new regulations to let police read encrypted messages. Many Islamist groups use messaging apps, and more police access would help fight terror, officials claim.
The EU Commission should draft a law forcing operators to work with the authorities on tracking down terrorists, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday.
This would "impose obligations on operators who show themselves to be non-cooperative, in particular when it comes to withdrawing illegal content or decrypting messages as part of an investigation," he told reporters in Paris.
Cazeneuve announced the initiative after meeting with his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere. Both France and Germany are looking into ways of boosting their security after a wave of terror strikes in Europe.
Investigators in several countries claim that terror groups now use lesser-known messaging apps which offer encryption to protect the users' data. The jihadists, including members of the "Islamic State," prefer such apps over mainstream social media.
Telegram under fire
Police need better tools to tap phones, Cazeneuve said on Tuesday, calling for new rules for both operators inside and outside the EU.
The French minister singled out the Telegram messenger app, accusing Telegram of not cooperating with the government. The service boasts heavy encryption capabilities in all stages of communications, as well as self-deleting messages. On their website, the company claims it can provide enough security even for people who are "more paranoid" than average users.
Earlier this month, France detained a 16-year-old girl on charges of planning a jihadist attack. According to the investigators, the teenager was an administrator of a Telegram chat group where she "relayed numerous Islamic State group propaganda messages calling for attacks" and expressed a personal desire to "take action."
Telegram did not immediately comment on Cazeneuve's statement on Tuesday.
Better EU solutions
The two ministers also requested better cooperation between EU members on external borders, as well as sharing information on possible threats, refugees, and airline passengers.
Data on visas should also be shared, according to German interior minister De Maiziere. "We believe that after Brexit... it's important to make clear where Europe offers better solutions for our members than if we carried out those solutions unilaterally - and that includes the areas of internal and external security," he said.
Cazeneuve also called for tighter links between police in various countries.
"The fight against terrorism is the first priority for Europeans," he said. "It's imperative that police have a single interface."
The ministers want their proposals to be discussed at the upcoming EU summit in Slovakia next month.
dj/jil (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)