July 2, 2021

HJ Talks About Abuse: Encryption on Tackling Child Sexual Abuse

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss the harm of encryption in relation to tackling child sexual abuse.

In 2020, the internet watch foundation received 300,000 reports, 153,000 of those were verified to be new child sexual abuse content. The police, and other professional bodies, have expressed concern that more child predators can be found on messaging apps, rather than on the dark web.

These authorities are concerned regarding wider use of end-to-end encryption on messages as this makes it much harder to apprehend suspects and detect child predators.

End-to-end encrypted messages can only be read by the sender and recipient. Every message has a unique “lock and key”. This means that no one can read the message’s contents while it is in transit. Third parties such as Facebook and Microsoft cannot decrypt the content of messages, and therefore cannot hand information in relation to criminal activity to the authorities.

Facebook has stated its intention to introduce this to its messenger and Instagram direct platforms. It has stated that end-to-end encryption has its positives in relation to privacy and keeping individuals safe from hackers and criminals.

The UK, US and Australia have repeatedly objected to the idea for several years because of the negative impact it would cause to combatting child abuse. The wider use would drastically reduce the amount of child sexual abuse material that is reported to authorities.

We encourage anyone who has comments or concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, to get in touch with Alan Collins at alan.collins@hughjames.com or Feleena Grosvenor at Feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com.

Sources:

Should encryption be curbed to combat child abuse? - BBC News

MI5 chief Ken McCallum accuses Facebook of giving ‘free pass’ to terrorists | News | The Times

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