National Crime Agency warns: Facebook encryption poses risks to children’s safety


The National Crime Agency (NCA) has expressed concerns that police may lose access to reports about children at risk on Facebook due to the platform’s move to encrypt messages. The NCA claims that Facebook’s owner, Meta, will no longer be able to identify signs of abuse, potentially reducing alerts from a US child safety hotline by 92%. While Meta has stated that it will use artificial intelligence to flag risky accounts, the NCA argues that encrypted messages will hinder these efforts. The agency is worried that children may be posing as adults on Facebook, while paedophiles may pretend to be children to contact them. Currently, the NCA receives reports of at-risk children on Facebook and Instagram via the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Persons. The UK government shares the NCA’s concerns and supports end-to-end encryption but demands safety measures to detect grooming and child sexual abuse material. Meta argues that encryption will protect users’ privacy and prevent hackers and criminals from accessing private messages. The company has also implemented measures to protect children, such as restricting adults from sending messages to young people who do not follow them. The NCA director general, Graham Biggar, has called for stricter penalties for individuals viewing child abuse images and for running websites facilitating the exchange of such material. Law enforcement has observed an emerging trend of paedophiles accepting cryptocurrency payments for these images.

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