Online privacy is important to everyone, and standard encryption plays a role in protecting that. Without it, many important online services would not work. But end-to-end encryption is different. It goes further. It could mean that children are at greater risk of sexual exploitation.
For example - on social media, it could mean messages which are end-to-end encrypted can only ever be seen by the sender and receiver. Theoretically, that sounds fine. But without additional safeguards, there is no opportunity, even for the company providing the messaging platform, to spot and prevent criminal content such as child sexual abuse imagery from being shared.
Technologies to safeguard children and privacy in end-to-end encrypted services exist now – so let’s use them.
We’re calling on companies to ensure that if they already use, or are about to deploy, end-to-end encryption on their messaging services, they also introduce safeguards.
This would mean that messages remain private AND children are also safer so that child sexual abuse content is not given a free pass to be shared and traded in private.
These technologies are no more obtrusive than anti-virus software or a spam filter – things which most people already use and benefit from every day.
To ensure that these safeguarding solutions are used properly, in a privacy-safe way, they must be deployed alongside a legislative framework which keeps their use limited to detecting child sexual abuse material only. Material which no one should have the right to share.
We can help tech companies balance privacy and child protection.
Tech companies have a great opportunity to take a balanced approach to user privacy and child safety in social media and messaging platforms. And we can help them.
We’re here to support technology companies to use either existing safeguarding technologies, or to develop their own privacy-safe tools to prevent the sharing of child sexual abuse material within end-to-end encrypted services.
We’re here to support technology companies to use existing technical tools in environments that are not end-to-end encrypted and help develop tools for end-to-end encrypted environments which are able to detect child sexual abuse or prevent it from circulating in the first place.
We would like to see tech industry leaders exploring alternative methods to improve user privacy before adopting end-to-end encryption, at least until they can develop effective automated detection and child safety tools compatible with end-to-end encryption.
Read our Journalists' Briefing.