The European Parliament has approved emergency measures allowing internet companies to scan users' private messages for material containing child sex abuse.
The controversial decision is an interim solution designed to fix problems with the European Electronics Communications Code, which came into force last December.
Last year, says the European Commission, nearly four million images and videos containing child abuse were reported, along with 1,500 grooming reports.
However, the new code unintentionally barred tech companies from voluntarily looking for illegal content such as child sex abuse.
"In a few short months, reports dropped by 53 per cent," said commissioner Ylva Johansson in a speech earlier this week. "Hundreds of cases, going unnoticed every day."
Now, though, internet companies will be allowed to detect, remove and report such content, as part of a temporary solution lasting up to three years. Meanwhile, national data protection authorities will have stronger oversight of the technologies used. All practices will be subject to GDPR and the Charter on Fundamental Rights, with the data processed limited to what is necessary, and held no longer than necessary.