IWF’s ‘record day’ fuels concern over the European Commission’s E-Privacy Directive

Published:  Tue 20 Nov 2018

As child protection experts from across the globe gather this week for the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities Forum: Child Dignity Online in Abu Dhabi, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) calls on the European Commission to reconsider proposed legislation on E-Privacy. This is important because if the proposal is enshrined in law, it will potentially have a direct impact on the tech companies’ ability to scan their networks for illegal online child sexual abuse images and videos.

Just last week, our IWF Hotline recorded our busiest day on record. In a single day (14th Nov), our team of specialist Analysts, assessed and actioned 2,015 reports of online images or videos, containing child sexual abuse. 

Under Article 5 of the proposed E-Privacy legislation, people would have more control over their personal data. As currently drafted, Article 5 proposes that tech companies would require the consent of the end user (for example, the person receiving an email or message), to scan their networks for known child sexual abuse content. Put simply, this would mean that unless an ‘offender’ agreed for their communications to be scanned, technology companies would no longer be able to do that.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, of the IWF says: “At a time when IWF are taking down more images and videos of child sexual abuse, we are deeply concerned by this move. Essentially, this proposed new law could put the privacy rights of offenders, ahead of the rights of children - children who have been unfortunate enough to be the victim of child sexual abuse and who have had the imagery of their suffering shared online. 

“We believe that tech companies’ ability to scan their networks, using PhotoDNA and other forms of technology, for known child sexual abuse content, is vital to the battle to rid the internet of this disturbing material. 
 
“It is remarkable that the EU is pursuing this particular detail in new legislation, which would effectively enhance the rights of possible ‘offenders’, at a time when the UK Home Secretary is calling on tech companies to do more to protect children from these crimes. The only way to stop this ill-considered action, is for national governments to call for amendments to the legislation, before it's too late. This is what is in the best interests of the child victims of this abhorrent crime.”

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