UK minister warns Meta over end-to-end encryption

The rollout of end-to-end encryption on Meta’s platforms, the interior minister of Britain said on Wednesday, “must not come at a cost to our children’s safety.”

Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, have urged the business that controls Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to “work with us” and make sure that police can access data.

“The use of strong encryption for online users remains a vital part of our digital world and I support it, so does the government, but it cannot come at a cost to our children’s safety,” she said.

“Meta has failed to provide assurances that they will keep their platforms safe from sickening abusers,” she added.

The government required Meta to include strong security measures in their end-to-end encryption plans.

The service, which restricts access to a message’s contents to its originator and receiver, is currently available through messaging app WhatsApp.

The feature will soon be added to Instagram Direct and Facebook Messenger, according to Meta.

James Babbage, director of general threats at the National Crime Agency (NCA), issued a warning that the measures might “massively reduce our collective ability” to protect children.

“We are not asking for new or additional law enforcement access, we simply ask that Meta retains the ability to keep working with us to identify and help prevent abuse,” he said.

Meta said in a statement that “the overwhelming majority of Brits already rely on apps that use encryption to keep them safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

“We don’t think people want us reading their private messages so have spent the last five years developing robust safety measures to prevent, detect and combat abuse while maintaining online security.”

The US firm said it was publishing updated safeguarding measures, including restricting people aged over 19 from messaging teenagers who don’t follow them and using technology to “identify and take action against malicious behaviour”.

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