Facebook is moving ahead with plans to implement end to end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram to protect users from snoopers, censors, spammers, scammers and thieves.
But children's campaign groups are opposing these safety measures on
the grounds the encryption will also protect those illegally distributing child abuse material.
About 100 organisations, led by the NSPCC, have signed an open letter warning the plans will undermine efforts to catch abusers.
Home Secretary Priti
Patel said she fully supported the move, presumably also thinking of the state's wider remit to snoop on people's communications.
End-to-end encryption, already used on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, means no-one, including the company that owns the
platform, can see the content of sent messages. The technology will make it significantly less likely that hackers will be able to intercept messages, going a long way to protect users from phishing and cyber-stalking. And of course child internet users
will also benefit from these protections.
The campaign group opposed such protection arguing:
We urge you to recognise and accept that an increased risk of child abuse being facilitated on or by Facebook is not a
reasonable trade-off to make.
A spokesman for Facebook said protecting the wellbeing of children on its platform was critically important to it. He said:
We have led the industry in safeguarding
children from exploitation and we are bringing this same commitment and leadership to our work on encryption
We are working closely with child-safety experts, including NCMEC [the US National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children], law enforcement, governments and other technology companies, to help keep children safe online.
In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse content to the NCMEC. The National Crime Agency
said this had led to more than 2,500 arrests and 3,000 children made safe.