Minister Attacks Meta Boss Over Facebook Message Encryption Plan
A federal minister has slammed Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for making the “extraordinary moral choice” to implement encryption in Facebook communications.
According to Security Minister Tom Tugendhat, Meta allows child predators to “operate with impunity.”
Read More: Meta is fined $1.3 billion by the European Union for privacy infringement
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) prevents anybody other than the sender and receiver from reading the communication.
Meta, which owns Facebook, stated that it will collaborate with law enforcement and child safety specialists as it implemented the technology.
The government has long criticized such intentions, as well as the reluctance of other platforms to undermine the privacy of end-to-end encrypted texting.
According to police and the government, the technology, which is also used in applications like Signal, WhatsApp, and Apple’s iMessage, inhibits law enforcement and the companies themselves from recognizing the transmission of child sexual abuse content.
“Faced with an epidemic of child sexual exploitation abuse, Meta chooses to ignore it, allowing predators to operate with impunity,” Mr Tugendhat added.
“That is a remarkable moral decision.” It is a remarkable decision. And I believe we should remember who is producing it.”
He was presenting at Anglia Ruskin University Chelmsford’s PIER23 conference on addressing internet dangers.
The security minister targeted Meta’s CEO for criticism.
“I’m referring specifically to Meta and Mark Zuckerberg’s choices.” “These are his options,” he said.
A government ad campaign will be launched soon “to tell parents what is true about Meta’s decisions and what they mean for their children’s safety,” he said.
Mr. Tugendhat said the campaign will “encourage tech firms to take responsibility and do the right thing” by running in print, online, and on television.
When contacted by the BBC, the Home Office denied offering any information about the campaign.
According to Meta, the majority of British citizens currently rely on encryption-enabled applications to keep them safe from hackers, fraudsters, and criminals.
“Because we don’t believe people want us to read their private messages, we’ve developed safety measures that prevent, detect, and allow us to take action against this terrible abuse while maintaining online privacy and security,” the company added.
Every month, the company deletes and reports millions of images.
Despite having end-to-end encryption, Meta’s WhatsApp got over a million reports in a year.
The Home Office has previously backed similar initiatives, such as last year’s No Place to Hide, which also urged Facebook to drop its plans for end-to-end encryption.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, however, was critical of the advertising, stating that the technology helped safeguard children from criminals and abusers and urging Facebook to roll it out immediately.
The Online Safety Bill, which is now being debated in Parliament, has provisions that might allow the communication regulator Ofcom to order platforms to employ approved technology to scan the contents of communications.
Several messaging providers, like Signal and WhatsApp, have already warned the BBC that if requested, they will refuse to impair the privacy of their encrypted chat systems.
The government claims that technical methods exist that allow the contents of encrypted conversations to be inspected for child abuse material.
Many IT experts think that the only way to accomplish this is to install software that scans messages on the phone or computer prior to they are delivered, a process known as client-side scanning.
This, detractors contend, would fundamentally erode message privacy, and arguing otherwise would be equivalent to arguing that digging a hole beneath a fence does not damage the barrier.
Signal warned the BBC in February that if compelled to impair the privacy of its encrypted messaging software, it would “walk” away from the UK.
In reaction to the minister’s remarks, the organization’s president, Meredith Whittaker, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the government was attempting to build “a mass surveillance apparatus.” Consumers will be forced to “run government-mandated scanning programs on their devices,” she alleged.
According to Ciaran Martin, former head of the National Cyber Security Centre, “essentially it’s building a door that does not currently exist, not into the encrypted messaging app but into devices, that could be used or misused by people who aren’t interested in securing children for more nefarious purposes.”
Mr Martin predicted that the UK will wind up in a “unhappy situation” in which the bill’s power would be passed but not utilized.
After an outcry, Apple abandoned client-side scanning. Mr. Martin stated in a Financial Times piece that Apple is privately skeptical of the powers under the bill, although the company has yet to publicly state its view on the matter.
According to Freedom of Information requests, Apple has met with the Ofcom team responsible for creating policy about the enforcement of the relevant part of the bill four times since April 2022.