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UK’s crime agency: Meta’s end-to-end encryption a step back for child safety


UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) says Meta’s new default end-to-end encryption feature for Messenger will make it harder to keep children safe and hinder investigations into child predators.

The NCA argues that end-to-end encryption, also known as E2EE, will hinder law enforcement’s ability to analyze reports and investigate claims of actual abuse content detected on the messaging platform.

When a platform is E2EE, “law enforcement are no longer able to see that content, putting every single referral that we receive from that platform at risk,” it explained.

Additionally, the agency says 92% of detected child abuse content from Facebook and 85% from Instagram will be lost to UK police each year, making it nearly impossible for law enforcement to follow up on the information disseminated to them.

Currently, the agency arrests roughly 800 suspects each month.

The NCA, which is head of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international law enforcement alliance for the protection of children from online sexual abuse, released an official statement Friday.

“Today, our role in protecting children from sexual abuse just got harder," the NCA posted on X.

“It is hugely disappointing that Meta is choosing to roll out end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger. They have an important responsibility to keep children safe on their platform, and sadly, this will no longer be possible,” said James Babbage, the NCA’s Director General for Threats.

“This problem won’t go away; if anything it will likely get worse,” Babbage said.

“Offenders will still use Facebook Messenger to send illegal material, and will use the vast quantity of data shared on the platform about children to select and groom future victims, the Director said.

He explained that for most of the online abuse content forwarded to the agency, relying on meta-data alone will rarely be sufficient enough to get a search warrant.

In years past, Meta has supported law enforcement by identifying and reporting instances of child sexual abuse to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US, as required by US law, the NCA pointed out.

To put the numbers in perspective, the NCMEC received a 32 million reports in 2022.

In the UK, the NMEC first send the reports to the NCA. The NCA will then analyze the reports and then send valuable leads to police across the British nation.

Meta’s E2EE roll-out was December 7th. Meta’s WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, and the feature will eventually be made available to all Instagram users.


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