Suella Braverman claimed that she wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, outlining her worries regarding the company’s plans to implement end-to-end encryption without providing adequate safeguards for children.
The Home Secretary explained to the Commons the crucial role that tech firms like Meta play in aiding UK law enforcement organisations, noting that the data made available by these platforms aids in the protection of about 1,200 children each month.
She warned, nevertheless, that Meta’s plans might make it more difficult to proactively identify and report cases of child abuse and grooming content on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct, saying: “This will be a huge boon to anyone who wants to hurt a child.”
End-to-end encryption, which prohibits anyone besides the sender and recipient of a message from reading its contents, is currently available by default on the Meta-owned messaging programme WhatsApp.
Later this year, the social media behemoth intends to introduce the capability to both Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct talks.
Speaking at Home Office questions, Ms Braverman said: “The information that Meta and other tech companies give to UK law enforcement helps to protect around 1,200 children and leads to over 100 arrests of suspected child abusers every month.
“But Meta plans to roll out end-to-end encryption soon without safeguards.
“They will no longer proactively detect and alert authorities to child grooming and abuse material on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct.
“This will be a huge boon to anyone who wants to hurt a child.
“The Online Safety Bill will hold tech firms to account, but indifference to abuse is intolerable.
“I have written to Mark Zuckerberg, along with the security minister (Tom Tugendhat), children’s charities, campaign groups to outline our profound concerns.
“And last week I was in New Zealand at the Five Eyes security conference where there was widespread support for working together to ensure social media companies put child safety first.”
A Meta company spokesperson said: “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 developed safety measures that prevent, detect and allow us to take action against this heinous abuse, while maintaining online privacy and security.
“We remain committed to working with law enforcement and child safety experts as we roll out end-to-end encryption.”