German Interior Minister calls for a ban on encryption

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants messaging apps to be able to provide all chats in plain text to investigative services. He wants a ban on encryption in apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Threema.

This is reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. Seehofer wants messaging apps “to be required to store their customers’ communications and hand them over to authorities if there is a court order to do so.” He adds that this must be done in a ‘readable format’. “So unencrypted.” Seehofer also says that providers and apps that do not meet those requirements will be banned in Germany by the Federal Telecom Agency.

“The freedom to use encryption must match the unavoidable tasks of the security services,” says Seehofer. He does want apps to set ‘encrypted communication as the rule’, but that it will also be technically possible to get ‘state of the art access to the content of all communication if there is a legal demand for this’. Such a so-called back door in encryption has been talked about for years. Opponents say such a thing is inherently impossible, because a backdoor for one party means that potentially everyone can access communication.

Seehofer, chairman of the CSU, has not yet proposed any official regulations to effect the plan. He has, however, made a proposal to introduce a law. He wants to start the discussion at the upcoming ministry conference. It takes place in mid-June.