Meta Encryption Criticism, the parent company of Facebook, has pushed back against a government campaign that strongly criticises its plans to implement end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for messages on its platforms. The encryption would ensure that only the sender and recipient could read the messages.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman expressed concerns that encryption might compromise child safety by enabling the concealment of child abuse. In response, Meta Encryption Criticism emphasises that encryption is essential for user privacy, stating, “We don’t think people want us reading their private messages.”
Meta argues that the majority of Britons already rely on encrypted apps for safety from cyber threats and criminals. The company also highlights its commitment to robust safety measures developed over the last five years to combat abuse while maintaining online security.
While Ms. Braverman and other experts co-signed a letter expressing concerns about encryption in July, Meta maintains that it has already provided assurances regarding safety. The company has made much of this information available online.
Meta plans to introduce E2EE as the default for all Facebook Messenger chats by the end of the year. They own the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, and platforms like Signal and Apple’s iMessage also utilise encryption. These platforms have voiced concerns about the potential privacy implications of the recently passed Online Safety Bill.
Meta states that with E2EE as the default, they will employ various tools, including artificial intelligence, within the bounds of applicable law to proactively detect accounts engaged in malicious behaviour without scanning private messages. The company also outlines measures taken to protect children, including restrictions on messaging teens by adults over 19 who aren’t followed by the teenagers.
The Home Office has collaborated with the “Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)” to create a guide for parents to help keep their children safe if Meta implements E2EE. Additionally, they have supported the production of a film opposing Meta’s encryption plans, featuring the testimony of a survivor of child sexual exploitation online.
Data from the IWF indicates a concerning increase in the most severe forms of online child sexual abuse since 2020, further fueling the debate over encryption’s potential impact on child safety.