By Connor Steel
HOME SECRETARY Suella Braverman has urged social media and technology giants to backtrack on plans to introduce “end-to-end encryption”; arguing that it would restrict the ability of authorities to detect instances of sexual abuse material and child grooming without the implementation of suitable technology safeguarding.
The comments come after an announcement from Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg, who confirmed that end-to-end encryption would be used for communications on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct. This is set to take effect with a worldwide rollout late this year following a previous delay and will ensure “privacy” for all.
End-to-end encryption is defined as being a very secure communication method that allows both sender and receiver to view private messages between them. This will stop all third parties such as law enforcement and other authorities, from gaining access to private information that could likely be used for a range of purposes.
It is currently being used as part of WhatsApp and normal SMS text messages between phones; many users saying this technology allows them to feel safer when they are communicating with others and not vulnerable to potential scams. Messages are often locked after a set period of time to ensure privacy and cut data uses.
But concerns have been raised about whether end-to-end encryption makes it impossible to detect and stop serious crime; pre-dominantly child sex offenders and groomers online. Over twelve months which ended in December 2022, there was 34,486 offences relating to indecent images of children with many sent privately.
Furthermore it was estimated that up to 850,000 people in the UK pose a sexual threat to children, with more than 400,000 searches also made online for child sexual abuse material every month. And Home Office staff are concerned this dangerous threat may worsen if end-to-end encryption is rolled out with its current format.
They are concerned about the “perceived lack of safeguarding systems”, that could allow both Facebook and Instagram to become safe-havens for paedophiles; the Home Secretary asking for a quick implementation of existing firewall technology that could view any sign of child-related sexual material in end-to-end encryption.
It is reported that this stance was supported by other countries at the “Five Eyes” security conference held in New Zealand this week; which included delegates from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA. A further statement is due to be released over upcoming days about their discussion and future steps forward.
Meta have since responded with a spokesperson stating that “the overwhelming majority of Brits already rely on apps that use encryption to keep them safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals”. They further said that they were “working with the law enforcement and child safety experts as they roll out end-to-end encryption.”
Readers are encouraged to visit media sites such as BBC News, Sky News and ITV News for all developing updates on this story, whilst further information about “end-to-end encryption” and security is available here.
PICTURED BY ALAMY (2R8BNAG): Suella Braverman attends a recent cabinet meeting in Downing Street.