NSPCC Continues to Insist That Security Will Lead to Child Grooming

The NSPCC of the UK is continuing to insist that Facebook’s plan to add security will lead to child grooming. The “charity” wants Facebook to stop its encryption plan.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is continuing its anti-security campaign with a fresh PR campaign assault on Facebook’s encryption plans. Back in September, the organization launched its anti-security campaign in response to Facebook’s plans to implement end-to-end encryption on its messaging services. That campaign was also joined by the FBI who also took an anti-security stance. At the time, the wild claims and theories were quickly debunked as people point out how encryption works in the real world.

Of course, the reality of how encryption works isn’t going to be an obstacle that remains unchallenged for the NSPCC. Recently, they launched another round of anti-security commentary by saying that Facebook is going to become a one-stop shop for child grooming. They tried to gather some statistics that they say proves their point. From ITV:

The data – obtained by the charity from freedom of information requests to police forces between April 2018 and 2019 – shows that 22% were reported on Instagram, followed by 19% on Facebook or Facebook Messenger.

Only 3% (299 instances) were from WhatsApp, which the NSPCC says highlights how difficult it becomes to detect crimes on an end-to-end encrypted platform.

The charity believes criminals will be able to carry out more serious child abuse on Facebook’s apps undetected without needing to lure them off to encrypted platforms, if it goes ahead with changes.

“Instead of working to protect children and make the online world they live in safer, Facebook is actively choosing to give offenders a place to hide in the shadows and risks making itself a one-stop grooming shop,” said Andy Burrows, NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy.

“For far too long, Facebook’s mantra has been to move fast and break things but these figures provide a clear snapshot of the thousands of child sex crimes that could go undetected if they push ahead with their plans unchecked.

“If Facebook fails to guarantee encryption won’t be detrimental to children’s safety, the next Government must make clear they will face tough consequences from day one for breaching their duty of care.”

The article doesn’t specify if the NSPCC managed to prove that WhatsApp’s statistics are low because of encryption. After all, it could be that the platform enforces its Terms of Service much more vigorously. Is it because fewer users use the WhatsApp platform compared to Facebook? There really could be a host of reasons why the data says that fewer instances are found on WhatsApp that extent far beyond encryption.

To put it in another way on how statistics can get manipulated, let’s look at a hypothetical situation that does have bearing on reality. Ice cream consumption tends to go up in the Summer. Interestingly, drowning deaths tend to go up in the Summer as well. Therefore, ice cream consumption causes drowning deaths and must be banned to prevent more deaths. Of course, one could ask, “could it be that more people are out in the Summer months?”

From what evidence we’ve seen from the NSPCC, the data is very unconvincing at this point. This coming from the perspective of a third party neutral reporting position. The organization needs to find evidence that encryption as used by Facebook hinders investigations. So far, we haven’t seen anything that suggests this. What evidence that has been provided to date is woefully inadequate.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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