Minister attacks Meta boss over Facebook message encryption plan

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A telephone  being held with the Facebook Messenger logo connected  itImage source, Getty Images

By Chris Vallance

Technology reporter

A authorities curate has attacked Meta brag Mark Zuckerberg for the "extraordinary motivation choice" to rotation retired encryption successful Facebook messages.

Meta was allowing kid abusers to "operate with impunity", Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said.

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) stops anyone but the sender and recipient speechmaking the message.

Meta which owns Facebook, said it would enactment with instrumentality enforcement and kid information experts arsenic it deployed the tech.

The authorities has agelong been captious of those plans and of different platforms' absorption to weakening the privateness of end-to-end-encrypted messaging.

Police and authorities support the tech - besides utilized successful apps specified arsenic Signal, WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage - prevents instrumentality enforcement and the firms themselves from identifying the sharing of kid intersexual maltreatment material.

Mr Tugendhat said: "Faced with an epidemic of kid intersexual exploitation abuse, Meta are choosing to disregard it and successful doing so, they are allowing predators to run with impunity.

"That is an bonzer motivation choice. It is an bonzer decision. And I deliberation we should retrieve who it is who is making it."

He was speaking astatine the PIER23 league connected tackling online harms astatine Anglia Ruskin University Chelmsford.

"I americium speaking astir Meta specifically, and Mark Zuckerberg's choices particularly. These are his choices," helium said.

A authorities advertizing run volition soon beryllium launched "to archer parents the information astir Meta's choices and what they mean for the information of their children", helium said.

The campaign, which would tally successful print, online and broadcast, would "encourage tech firms to instrumentality work and to bash the close thing", Mr Tugendhat said.

The Home Office declined to supply much item astir the run erstwhile approached by the BBC.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Mr Tugendhat has been information curate since September 2022

Meta argues the bulk of British radical already trust connected apps that usage encryption to support them harmless from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

"We don't deliberation radical privation america speechmaking their backstage messages truthful person developed information measures that prevent, observe and let america to instrumentality enactment against this heinous abuse, portion maintaining online privateness and security", it said.

The institution removes and reports millions of images each month.

WhatsApp, which Meta owns, made much than 1 cardinal reports successful a twelvemonth adjacent though it uses end-to-end-encryption.

The Home Office has promoted akin campaigns successful the past, specified arsenic past year's No Place to Hide campaign, which besides called connected Facebook to wantonness plans for end-to-end encryption.

But the information watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office was captious of the campaign, arguing the tech helped support children from criminals and abusers, urged Facebook to rotation it retired without delay.

The Online Safety Bill, presently going done Parliament, contains powers that could alteration connection regulator Ofcom to nonstop platforms to usage accredited exertion to scan the contents of messages.

Several messaging platforms, including Signal and WhatsApp, person antecedently told the BBC they volition garbage to weaken the privateness of their encrypted messaging systems if directed to bash so.

The authorities argues it is imaginable to supply technological solutions that mean the contents of encrypted messages tin beryllium scanned for kid maltreatment material.

The lone mode of doing that, galore tech experts argue, would beryllium to instal bundle that would scan messages connected the telephone oregon machine earlier they are sent, called client-side scanning.

This, critics argue, would fundamentally undermine the privateness of messages and to reason different would beryllium similar arguing that digging a spread nether a obstruction did not interruption the fence.

Apple tried client-side scanning but abandoned it aft a backlash.

Former National Cyber Security Centre brag Ciaran Martin, in an nonfiction successful the FT, suggested Apple is privately captious of the powers successful the bill, but the steadfast has truthful acold declined to acceptable retired publically its presumption connected the issue.

The BBC learned from Freedom of Information requests that Apple has had 4 meetings since April 2022 with the Ofcom squad liable for the enforcement of the applicable conception of the bill.

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