How we fought an anti encryption law in Belgium - and won!


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Apr 24, 2016
Belgian encryption backdoor law

In June 2021, the Belgian government proposed a draft law called "Law on the collection and storage of identification, traffic and location data in the electronic communications sector and their access by the authorities", or short, "the Data Retention Legislation". This draft included a passage that would have forced companies such as WhatsApp and Signal to decrypt their encrypted chats upon request by the authorities for criminal investigation.

This law would have been the worst in Europe, worse than the Snoopers' Charter in the UK or the EARN IT bill in the USA.
Public protest against Belgian law

Thus, the Belgian government did not have to wait long for the public outcry: Belgian intellectuals like Professor Bart Preneel said that "by putting a backdoor into Whatsapp, you would make it less safe for everyone".

The main criticism was that it is simply impossible to rule out that a backdoor - once it is built - is abused by criminals or undemocratic regimes. A lowering of the security level would immediately affect all users - and not just those who are the subject of a judicial investigation.

We at Tutanota supported the public protest by sending an open letter written by the Global Encryption Coalition together with more than 100 security experts, NGOs and companies to the Belgian government explaining the importance of encryption.
Belgian government removes 'decryption requirement'

Consequently, you will not be surprised to hear how happy we were when the news made the round that we won!

The public outcry against the Belgian draft law was so strong that politicians within the government itself changed their course. Finally, the proposed passage that would have forced companies to decrypt encrypted data upon request by the authorities got removed from the draft law.
Encryption is gaining support

As we enter what we call the 'privacy era on the internet', encryption is gaining support - also among politicians.

We have noticed the same here in Germany where the new government has written down the 'right to encryption' into their coalition contract.

This is great news for everyone fighting for privacy online.

While the crypto wars are raging globally, we now have a chance that Europe is changing its direction by supporting and upholding strong encryption for all citizens.

Let's keep fighting for privacy together!