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Child-Welfare Activists Attack Facebook Over Encryption Plans

Activists and law enforcement agencies have seized on child exploitation as a new way to combat the expanded use of encryption in consumer technology.

The scope and severity...

The scope and severity of online child pornography has grown exponentially[1] along with the rise of social networks.

It is possible to find images and videos of children as young as infants being raped and abused online, and some services allow people to watch pay-per-view live streams of assaults of victims from around the world. Many victims live in fear[2] of being recognized, thanks to the near impossibility of deleting these images from the internet.

It would take nearly every agent at the F.B.I. to pursue every child pornography lead that came into the bureau, according to F.B.I. and Justice Department officials who have fought to obtain information that companies like Apple say they cannot give because of the strengthened security in their products.

In a hearing with the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also criticized Facebook on its encryption plans, calling it a “dream come true” for predators and child pornographers who use the services to traffic in illicit material.

“If Facebook moves forward with the plans that they have at the moment, we will be blinded,” Mr. Wray said. “They will blind themselves and law enforcement.”

Mr. Wray said Facebook should not be able to decide unilaterally to shut out law enforcement, leaving open the possibility that American lawmakers could try to mitigate the problem through legislation, as Australia has done. In 2018, the Australian Parliament passed a bill[3] that required tech companies to provide law enforcement authorities with access to encrypted communications.

“Tech companies like Facebook have a vital responsibility to balance privacy with the safety of vulnerable children,” Priti Patel, the British home secretary, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We have also submitted detailed evidence to the U.S. Senate about these concerns.”

References

  1. ^ grown exponentially (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ victims live in fear (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the Australian Parliament passed a bill (www.nytimes.com)

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