More evidence about the dangers to children posed by encryption

Earlier this week the NSPCC published the results of a series of Freedom of Information requests it made to the police in England and Wales (so not the whole of the UK).

They  asked the police how many cases they had dealt with in the past year that involved  online grooming behaviour directed at a child or the distribution of child sex abuse material on either Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. These  services are all owned by one company: Facebook.

Only 32 out of 43 forces replied and of these some said they were unaware of the platform or service that was used. Let that pass for now.  These types of crimes are under-reported anyway but, of the cases that were reported, among those where the platform or service was identified by the police, from a total of 9,259 instances,  22% were on Instagram, 19% were on Facebook or Facebook Messenger and 3% were on WhatsApp. That works out at 11 cases per day.

WhatsApp is already encrypted. That probably accounts for the relatively low percentage but Facebook have announced they intend to encrypt everything on all three services.

What did the NSPCC have to say bout this?

“Instead of working to protect children and make the online world they live in safer, Facebook is actively choosing to give offenders a place to hide in the shadows and risks making itself a one stop grooming shop.

“For far too long Facebook’s mantra has been to move fast and break things but these figures provide a clear snapshot of the thousands of child sex crimes that could go undetected if they push ahead with their plans unchecked.

“If Facebook fails to guarantee encryption won’t be detrimental to children’s safety, the next Government must make clear they will face tough consequences from day one for breaching their Duty of Care.”

I could hardly have put it better myself.





About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. More:
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