A person armed with an angle grinder stands in front of a yellow mailbox. The crowd looks on tensely as the tool screeches loudly as it hits metal. Police are also present, but do not intervene. After a short time, the mailbox gives way. The metal is broken and with it the protection of the letters from prying eyes. Anne Herpertz (Pirate Party Germany) takes out one letter after the other and reads aloud from it: Trade secrets of a start-up, name and address of a whistleblower and other confidential information.
The brute force of this action is emblematic of what the EU Commission is planning with its surveillance law on chat control: breaking the digital privacy of letters for everyone, regardless. A few meters away, the Interior Ministers' Conference (IMK) is meeting at this moment, with a special guest: the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for chat control and is there promoting her unprecedented surveillance plans.
For this occasion, our alliance ChatkontrolleSTOPPEN!" organized the protest action. We invited representatives of different parties and of course the press to make it publicly clear: We oppose chat control. We demand:
- The EU Commission must withdraw its mass surveillance plans. Chat control cannot fulfill the supposed goal of child protection with which the plans are justified. Instead of technocratic surveillance, the EU Commission should present sensible measures, such as more support for youth and social work, educating children and parents about safe use of digital media, and more resources for targeted investigative work of police.
- Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser must finally implement the coalition agreement, which clearly rejects chat control. Instead, she is in fact behaving ambivalently, in part even supporting the mass surveillance plans. In this way, she prevents the German government from standing up against chat control in the EU to protect our fundamental rights.
- The German federal parliament, the Bundestag, must take the reins of action into its own hands and draw red lines in accordance with Article 23 of the German constitution. If the federal government cannot or will not take a clear stand against chat control, the parliament must act.
To make sure that the politicians of (in)security at the IMK don't miss this message, we have come up with a few things: a giant banner "Big Sisters Are Watching You", alluding to the three responsible persons: EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. And of course, we brought our analog prototype of chat control. The Member of the Bundestag Tobias B. Bacherle (Green Party Germany), agrees on the spot to try it out and puts his cell phone on the prototype scanner. Just like all EU-citizens, he is of course also flagged as a potential suspect. The planned "AI" surveillance stops at no one. Shortly before, he criticized the planned chat control in his speech.
We know: This action alone will not be enough. But we continue and stand as a loud, colorful civil society against chat control. Because we don't want to wake up in a dystopia where governments can monitor everything through chat control, where they can determine what we are allowed to write publicly or privately and where there is no reliable encryption and IT security anymore.
That's why we say: "Save the digital secrecy of correspondence, stop chat control. Stop Scanning Me!"
Pictures of the protest acton
Joint protest against chat control at the Interior Ministers.Interior Conference. | Image: cven CC-BY 4.0
Tom Jennissen and Sebastian Marg of the German NGO Digitale Gesellschaft at the protest. | Image: cven CC-BY 4.0
Our campaigner Konstantin Macher at the protest action against chat control. | Image: royalty-free, Pirate Party Germany
Member of the Bundestag Tobias B. Bacherle (Green Party Germany) speaks at the protest against chat control. | Image: cven CC-BY 4.0
Matthias Lüth (Jusos) at the protest against chat control. | Image: royalty-free, Pirate Party Germany
Anne Herpertz (Pirate Party Germany) reads from the broken mailbox | Image: royalty-free, Pirate Party Germany
Our campaigner Konstantin Macher at the protest against chat control. | Image: cven CC-BY 4.0