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UK Home Secretary Uses Idea of Keeping Children Safe as a Justification To Demand Ban on Private Messaging

The usual trope.

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It would be extremely refreshing to hear a government official in the UK, or in a number of other countries, make a, “think of the encryption” plea – which would show they understand the very fundamentals of a safe and privacy-preserving internet.

But instead, we are getting more and more “think of the children” platitudes – as always, designed not to actually do that, but mask other, controversial and unpopular policies.

This time, it is UK’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman who claims that her opposition to Facebook’s slow-moving, alleged attempt to make a number of its products safe via implementing end-to-end encryption has to do with fears that children might get abused online.

Any tech-literate person would present the big picture, and argue quite the opposite, but Braverman is either not one of those, or elects to pretend not to be, in order to serve a policy that is staunchly anti-encryption, for a whole different reason – summed up, that technology stands severely annoyingly, no doubt, in the way of governments’ wholesale mass surveillance of everybody on the internet.

And what better place to twist the narrative about fears of awful things like child grooming and sexual abuse – perversely juxtaposed with actually improving internet security, i.e., encryption – than a get-together of the (in)famous “Five Eyes,” held in one eager member – New Zealand.

Braverman made an effort to write to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and, ignoring the reality of what an internet without encryption would turn into, tried, no doubt, above all to pull at her constituents’ heartstrings:

“As a mother to young children,” the politician stomped her feet, “I won’t stand by idly and watch this happen,” The Daily Mail reported.

“This” would be – platforms like Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct introducing secure communications, so that third parties – be they criminals, malign (foreign) actors, or (sometimes (effectively malign) domestic law enforcement – cannot just swoop in and use personal information in any way they please, including to directly harm those participating, children included, by gaining unfettered access to all their data.

Facebook owner Meta – that seems damned if it does, and damned if it doesn’t – once again tried to walk a thin middle-of-the-road line.

By providing privacy to its users, Meta argued, they would not be any less diligent in “taking action ‘against this heinous abuse.'”

“We remain committed to working with law enforcement and child safety experts as we roll out end-to-end encryption,” Meta said.

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