Tech news
Saturday, Mar 25, 2023

Encryption: UK data watchdog criticises government campaign

Encryption: UK data watchdog criticises government campaign

A Home Office-backed campaign against the rollout of ultra-secure messaging apps by social media firms has been criticised by the UK data watchdog.

The No Place to Hide campaign says Facebook should abandon plans for end-to-end encryption in its Messenger app, saying it helps to hide child abuse.

But the Information Commissioner's Office argues the technology strengthens children's online safety.

A delay "leaves everyone at risk, including children," it told the BBC.

Stephen Bonner, the ICO's executive director for innovation and technology, said end-to-end encryption helped keep children safe online by not allowing "criminals and abusers to send them harmful content or access their pictures or location".

"The discussion on end-to-end encryption use is too unbalanced to make a wise and informed choice. There is too much focus on the costs without also weighing up the significant benefits," he said.

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is already used in the hugely popular WhatsApp, iMessage and Signal apps.

Meta plans to add it to Facebook Messenger and Instagram direct messages in 2023.

The system scrambles the contents of messages and calls so that only the end users can understand the data. Even the company processing the communications cannot decrypt the content which means that law enforcement are unable to access the information to potentially catch or convict criminal using the technology.

For years, authorities in the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, India and Japan, plus law enforcement agencies such as Interpol and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) have criticised the technology.

Identify abusers

Launching the campaign on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the No Place To Hide initiative said that rolling out E2EE would be "like turning the lights off on the ability to identify child sex abusers online".

Videos have been released on social media claiming that the technology will put children at risk from predators.

The campaign says it is "not opposed to end-to-encryption in principle" but wants social media companies to "find a solution that protects privacy without putting children at even greater risk".

The Home Office backed the campaign launch, saying: "Our view is that online privacy and cyber-security must be protected, but that these are compatible with safety measures that can ensure the detection of child sexual exploitation and abuse."

But it declined to respond to the intervention by the ICO, an independent public body which reports to the government.

The ICO argues that E2EE serves an important role in safeguarding privacy and online safety and says it looks forward to being a participant in the continuing discussion around the tech.

"Having access to encrypted content is not the only way to catch abusers," Mr Bonner said.

"Law enforcers have other methods such as listening to reports of those targeted, infiltrating the groups planning these offences, using evidence from convicted abusers and their systems to identify other offenders."

The ICO says the government should continue to maximise law enforcement techniques instead of seeking to weaken encryption.

"Until we look properly at the consequences, it is hard to see any case for reconsidering the use of E2EE," it said.

Rob Jones from the National Crime Agency told the BBC any move to roll out of end-to-end encryption needed to "maintain the ability to protect children and identify images of abuse. A jump to E2EE without this capability risks turning the lights out for law enforcement worldwide".

He added: "The NCA and UK policing currently make over 500 arrests and safeguard more than 650 children every month as a direct result of industry reports of child sexual abuse material.

"That will become much more challenging under E2EE."


Related Articles

Donald Trump arrested – Twitter goes wild with doctored pictures
Credit Suisse's Scandalous History Resulted in an Obvious Collapse - It's time for regulators who fail to do their job to be held accountable and serve as an example by being behind bars.
Russian Hackers Preparing New Cyber Assault Against Ukraine
A brief banking situation report
Elon Musk Is Planning To Build A Town In Texas For His Employees
The Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse effect is spreading around the world, affecting startup companies across the globe
Market Chaos as USDC Loses Peg to USD after $3.3 Billion Reserves Held by Silicon Valley Bank Closed.
Banking regulators close SVB, the largest bank failure since the financial crisis
In a major snub to Downing Street's Silicon Valley dreams, UK chip giant Arm has dealt a serious blow to the government's economic strategy by opting for a US listing
It's the question on everyone's lips: could a four-day workweek be the future of employment?
Corruption and Influence Buying Uncovered in International Mainstream Media: Investigation Reveals Growing Disinformation Mercenaries
Being a Tiktoker might be expensive…
China's top tech firms, including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, NetEase, and, are developing their own versions of Open AI's AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT
This shocking picture, showing how terrible is the results of the earthquake in Turkey
The desk of King Carlos Alberto of Sardinia has many secret compartments
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Yellen hints at ‘national security’ probe into Twitter purchase
Elon Musk reinstates Donald Trump's Twitter account.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama will hold back-to-back disinformation conferences
Solar + Powerwall ensures you never lose power, even if the grid goes down
This man paid for strangers' grocery and it moved them to tears
Meta introduces a new version of Mark Zuckerberg
Virtual Reality on billboards: BMW advertisement on Times Square
Apple CEO Tim Cook says coding should be taught as early as elementary school: 'It's the most important language you can learn'
Apple Executive Resigns After Viral TikTok Shows Him Making Crude Jokes
Huawei is not only better technology, but also protecting users better: Apple Warns Of Security Flaw For Iphones, Ipads And Macs
Mark Zuckerberg warns many teams will ‘shrink’ as Meta revenue drops
Elon Musk reportedly begged for forgiveness after his affair with Google co-founder Sergey Brin's wife
J.P. Morgan’s wealth management guru has some advice for recent college graduates on managing money and building wealth
Pentagon widens scope of UFO-hunting unit
Bezos' girlfriend Lauren Sanchez gives $1M to group focused on migrant kids at US-Mexico border
Hong Kong gets its first metaverse churches with avatars and virtual preachers
The ‘Dirty Quid Pro Quo’ Between Democrats and Big Tech
Elon Musk swore in March not to sell any Bitcoin, but Tesla cashed out 75% of its Bitcoin holdings amid the crypto winter just months later
Crypto winter continues at Gemini as another round of layoffs hits Winklevoss crypto exchange