The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and other child protection organizations are asking Facebook to halt its plans to implement message encryption.
The NSPCC and over 100 other groups have signed an open letter to Facebook warning it that its plans to introduce message encryption on Messenger and Instagram Direct could undermine initiatives to catch offenders.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said she “fully supported” the move by NSPCC. In a statement, Patel said: “Tech companies like Facebook have a vital responsibility to balance privacy with the safety of vulnerable children.”
“Following my letter to Mark Zuckerberg, I met with Sheryl Sandberg and emphasised that Facebook’s encryption plans cannot be allowed to hamper their ability to protect young people from paedophiles online. We have also submitted detailed evidence to the US Senate about these concerns,” she mentioned.
She added: “I fully support the continued efforts of the NSPCC and children’s charities around the world to engage Facebook on this issue.”
The social networking company already uses end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp, which means that no one, including the company that owns the platform, can see the content of sent messages.
The groups that signed the open letter argued that Facebook failed to consider concerns about child safety. They are urging the tech firm to halt plans to introduce the encryption until “sufficient safeguards” are in place.
The letter stated: “At a time when we could be looking to build upon years of sophisticated initiatives, Facebook instead seems inclined to blindfold itself. We urge you to recognize and accept that an increased risk of child abuse being facilitated on or by Facebook is not a reasonable trade-off to make.”
“Children should not be put in harm’s way either as a result of commercial decisions or design choices,” the letter continued.
Aside from NSPCC, other organizations that signed the letter include Barnardo’s, 5Rights, the International Centre For Missing and Exploited Children, and Child USA.