Friday, April 19, 2024

Facebook and Instagram encryption plans delayed to 2023

Plans to roll out end-to-end encryption on Facebook and Instagram have been delayed amid a row over child safety, reports the BBC. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said messaging encryption on the apps would come in 2023. The process would see only the sender and receiver able to read messages. Law enforcement and Meta would not. However, child protection groups and politicians have warned that it could hamper police investigating child abuse. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), has claimed that private messaging “is the front line of child sexual abuse.” End-to-end encryption works by “scrambling” or encrypting the data while it travels between phones and other devices. The only way to read such messages is to get physical access to an unlocked device that sent or received it. The technology is the default for messaging service WhatsApp, also owned by Meta, but not the company’s other apps. The NSPCC sent Freedom of Information requests to 46 police forces across England, Wales, and Scotland asking them for a breakdown of the platforms used to commit sexual offences against children last year. The responses revealed:


  • more than 9,470 instances of child sex abuse images and online child sex offences were reported to police
  • 52% of these took place on Meta-owned apps
  • over a third of the cases took place on Instagram, and 13% on Facebook and Messenger, with few occurring via WhatsApp


That has led to fears that Meta’s plans to expand encryption to widely used Facebook Messenger and Instagram direct messages could shield the majority of abusers from detection. The NSPCC said that encrypting messages by default could lead to the easier spread of child abuse imagery or online grooming. But advocates say that encryption protects users’ privacy, and prevents prying by both governments and unscrupulous hackers. Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg made those arguments when he announced Facebook’s encryption plans in 2019.Antigone Davis, Meta’s global head of safety, said that the delay in implementing encryption to 2023 was because the company was taking its time “to get this right.”

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