The European Parliament wants to prevent backdoors which would give law enforcement agencies access to user data such as content sent through instant messaging apps, and enforce end-to-end encryption.

It proposed an amendment to Article 7 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights covering user data and privacy, which says electronic communications – including when information was sent, from where and to whom – is not to be revealed to anyone.

Article 7 also says the principle of confidentiality should apply to current and future means of communication, including calls, internet access, instant messaging applications, e-mail, internet phone calls and personal messaging provided through social media.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs would ensure privacy with a clause prohibitng “decryption, reverse engineering or monitoring” of encrypted communications.

“Member States shall not impose any obligations on electronic communications service providers that would result in the weakening of the security and encryption of their networks and services,” it added.

Fighting terrorism
The proposal, which would require approval by the European Parliament and European Council, runs contrary to recent calls by governments for technology companies to allow backdoor access to encrypted forms of communication, following reports the private services had been used by people posing a threat to national security.

In May, it was reported operators in the UK could be obligated to provide the government with access to citizens’ data “in real time”, according to a new draft proposal.

This would require operators and ISPs to build backdoor access to encrypted messages.

In March UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform should open its encryption to security services to help prevent terrorist attacks, Bloomberg reported.

It is not clear how any new European laws would apply to the UK after Brexit.

End-to-end encryption scrambles a message through the network so it can only be read by the person it is intended for, which helps counter the threat of cyber attacks.