A proposal by European Union governments that calls for communications companies to provide authorities with access to encrypted messages was criticised by digital rights campaigners. The plan, first reported by Austrian public broadcaster FM4, reflects concern among European countries that police and intelligence services can’t easily monitor online chats that use end-to-end encryption, such as Signal or WhatsApp.

According to The Associated Press, a draft proposal dated November 6 and circulated by the German government, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, proposes creating a “better balance” between privacy and crime-fighting online.

The confidential draft, obtained independently by the news agency, states that “competent authorities must be able to access data in a lawful and targeted manner, in full respect of fundamental rights and the data protection regime, while upholding cybersecurity.”

It adds that “technical solutions for gaining access to encrypted data must comply with the principles of legality, transparency, necessity and proportionality.”

According to German Left party lawmaker Anke Domscheit-Berg, the European governments are using anxiety caused by recent extremist attacks, such as those in France and Austria, as an excuse for greater surveillance measures. He argued that providing authorities with a key to unlock all forms of encrypted communications would pose a grave security risk to all users.

(With agency inputs)

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