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UK minister warns Meta over end-to-end encryption

Britain’s interior minister urges tech giant Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, to ensure end-to-end encryption doesn’t compromise children’s safety, emphasizing the need for robust safeguards against abuse.

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — Britain’s interior minister on Wednesday warned tech giant Meta that rolling out end-to-end encryption on its platforms must “not to come at a cost to our children’s safety”.

Suella Braverman and security minister Tom Tugendhat have called on the company, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, to “work with us” and ensure 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 minister demanded that Meta develop robust safeguards as part of their plans for end-to-end encryption.

Messaging app WhatsApp already offers the service, which allows only the sender and recipient of a message to access its contents.

Meta is now planning to extend the feature to both Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct.

The National Crime Agency’s (NCA) director of general threats, James Babbage, warned the plans could “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”.

— AFP

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