End-to-end encryption in UK and US under threat – balancing privacy in the fight against child exploitation

Due to child sexual exploitation, politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom are pushing to undermine end-to-end encryption, potentially hurting users of encrypted messaging systems.

 Person, Security

Politicians in the USA and UK are attempting to weaken end-to-end encryption due to child sexual abuse, despite cybersecurity experts agreeing it is impossible. This could have significant implications for encrypted messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Signal users.

Former Hong Kong politician Charles Mok, now a visiting professor at Stanford University’s Center for Cyber Policy, believes that if the UK and the USA abandon encryption, it will be easy to attack platforms and access private messages.

The UK’s Online Safety Bill and the United States EARN IT Act require tech companies to take ‘proactive’ measures to prevent the spread of harmful content, including child pornography. However, end-to-end encryption may be technically impossible, forcing them to choose between encrypted services and legal requirements.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of opinion and Expression in 2015, encryption was a critical safeguard for dissidents in authoritarian regimes, recognising its significance in preserving anonymity and resisting censorship.

Frederike Kaltheuner, director of technology and human rights at Human Rights Watch, has expressed concern over the Online Security Law, stating that most encryption users have no link to crime.

The owners of end-to-end encryption service providers oppose the UK proposal, with Signal and WhatsApp threatening to leave the country if it is passed.