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As a precaution against the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Internet Watch Foundation will be operating at a reduced capacity. We provide a vital service for the public and are committed to staying open but there is likely to be a delay responding to reports, emails and calls. People can still report child sexual abuse imagery as normal here.

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DNS over HTTPS: ‘What does that mean?’

By Fred Langford, IWF Deputy CEO and CTO.

Screenshot DoH video

You can find our previous blogs outlining our position on DoH here:

A criticism that is often levelled against tech companies is that their processes and products, made up of algorithms and vast amounts of data, are opaque and inaccessible. The language of the tech community seems far removed from that of day-to-day life. How on earth are consumers able to make an informed choice, how can governments scrutinise, if they do not fully understand the technical mumbo jumbo laid out before them?

This argument is central to the debate surrounding DNS over HTTPS (DoH). Whilst some tech companies have argued that this is simply providing the user with greater choice, concerns have been raised that the DNS system is a technical, little understood part of the process. Do users realise that by clicking a box agreeing to greater privacy, they are also agreeing to the bypassing of blocking lists and parental controls that have been designed to keep themselves and their children safe online?

At the IWF we pride ourselves on our transparency. We work hard to ensure that, when we talk about our work, we do so in clear, accessible and understandable format. Our mission, to rid the internet of child sexual abuse imagery, requires the support of every single internet user – be they young or old, parent or child, influencer or ebay-er. We have nothing to hide, we know that our work is of the highest calibre. 

This ethos extends to everything that we do, every corner of our work. Which is why we have collaborated with Curveball media to make a short, simple video explaining DoH – what it is, and what it means.   

Screenshot DoH video 2

The internet was created for everyone. But if users do not understand the implications of what they are agreeing to, do they have the same stake? These are the questions that the tech community will continue to battle with over the coming months. 

Over the past few months in our discussions with stakeholders, from both within and outside the tech community, we have been met with too many puzzled looks. The name itself, DNS over HTTPS, discourages those unfamiliar with the infrastructure of the internet from engaging. But we must work to erode these barriers that prevent everyone, from every walk of life, from fully understanding and engaging with these important, if technical, decisions that define our online world. 

Report here