UK officials are demanding that before Meta rolls out end-to-end encryption for its Messenger and Instagram platforms – it must simultaneously significantly weaken that very same security feature.
The demand of CEO Mark Zuckerberg is to ensure there are “safeguards” (i.e., encryption backdoors) built in first.
These politicians are, as ever, “thinking of the children” (rather than, as their critics rather suspect, looking for ways to facilitate mass state surveillance).
However, end-to-end encryption is in fact thinking of the children – and of every internet user, by ensuring security of platforms and communications, which would otherwise be left open to abuse from not only by governments, but also a variety of regular criminals.
The media now quotes Tom Tugendhat, UK’s Minister of State for Security, as urging Meta to make sure those “safeguards” are baked in for UK users, in order to thwart pedophiles’ activity.
That there are legitimate ways for law enforcement to fight this, and other types of serious crime, while not undermining the safety of everyone on the internet, is being completely ignored here. Instead, Tugendhat is making emotional appeals, and speaks about the need to stop “sick criminals.”
Again – that need certainly exists, and they are being discovered and stopped by law enforcement all the time – but, the minister’s bizarre narrative is that if Messenger and Instagram are secured with encryption, this will be an “extraordinary moral failing” that will let those individuals act “with impunity” while children in the UK could face “catastrophic” consequences.
However rational the argument in favor of full encryption is, it is difficult to counter such populist scaremongering, and it remains to be seen how Zuckerberg chooses to react.
Tugendhat is not the only one in the UK ringing the anti-encryption alarm: the National Crime Agency (NCA) has announced that it calculated “90% fewer pedophiles” will be getting caught once the Meta platforms become secure.
And as Tugendhat himself noted in an op-ed, pressure on Meta in this matter has also been coming from the government as a whole, various charities, and “international partners.”
Facebook previously promised to introduce encryption – and deploy its “robust safety measures to prevent, detect and combat abuse while maintaining online security.”
“As we roll out end-to-end encryption, we expect to continue providing more reports to law enforcement than our peers due to our industry leading work on keeping people safe,” said a spokesperson.
Make of that what you will.
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