UK seems to spearhead the data protection rights movement along with most of the EU. It has become increasingly difficult to collect a user’s data and send it to third-party companies due to the strict data regulations imposed. The change is mainly due to the recent scandals involving a gross violation of data rights by tech companies.
UK’s Stance on End-to-End Encryption
To combat alarming concerns by users companies such as Apple have developed its App Transparency Tracking feature which will require developers to ask for permission for collection data. While the UK has been an advocate for data rights, its recent decision makes it unclear where it stands. The country is all set to put an end to end-to-end encryption with the Home Office in lead. Their main goal its seems is to discourage Facebook from launching the technology to other applications.
Additionally, Home Secretary Priti Patel is planning to deliver a keynote speech at a child protection charity’s event focused on exposing the repercussions of end-to-end encryption and asking for stricter regulation of the technology. A full report will be revealed on the even in question. However, it has been reported that the event is set to be deeply critical of the encryption standard, which makes it harder for investigators and technology companies to monitor communications between people and detect child grooming or illicit content, including terror or child abuse imagery.
The main goal of end-to-end encryption is to prevent third parties from accessing data. The messages sent with this technology will only be available to the sender and the receiver hence it is difficult for law enforcement to collect vital information in an investigation and some cases they are unable to obtain any evidence. The technology has been mass distributed and is used by multiple applications including WhatsApp and Signal.
The Home Office has taken this stance after Facebook had announced that it will soon roll out end-to-end encryption across all its platforms, this includes Messenger and Instagram. The decision has been the center of scrutiny due to the supposed risks the technology poses to children.
The NSPCC meeting will determine the final verdict and present a report including, The Online Safety Bill. WIRED has obtained an early draft of the report which claims that increased usage of end-to-end encryption would protect adults’ privacy at the expense of children’s safety and that any strategy adopted by technology companies to mitigate the effect of end-to-end encryption will “almost certainly be less effective than the current ability to scan for harmful content.”
As of now, Facebook undertakes the circulation of child sex abuse content on WhatsApp by removing accounts displaying forbidden/ duplicate images in their profile pictures, or groups whose names suggest an illegal activity. WhatsApp claims it bans more than 300,000 accounts per month that it suspects of sharing child sexual abuse material.
Facebook has released a statement saying, “Already the leading security technology used by many services to keep people safe from having their private information hacked and stolen. Its full rollout on our messaging services is a long-term project and we are building strong safety measures into our plans,” The Company insists that this will decrease the number of child abuse reports instead of increasing them.
The Bottom Line
It seems Facebook is not getting a break this year; it has been stuck in the middle of one controversy after the other. First, it was WhatsApp’s new privacy policies than the anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, and now trouble with the UK.
The outcome of this recent debacle cannot be determined until the meeting is held. For now, all we can do is wait and see how tech companies react to UK’s decision.