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Camilla Care

European police chiefs are calling for the rollout of end-to-end encryption, including public protection measures

Vaseline 4 weeks ago

The Director-General of the National Crime Agency and European police chiefs are calling on industry and governments to take urgent action to ensure public safety across all technology platforms.

At a meeting in London this week, the 32 European police chiefs reached an agreement

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They express deep concern that end-to-end encryption is being rolled out in a way that undermines their ability to investigate crime and protect the public.

It will ensure that tech companies don’t see insults happening on their platforms. It will also hinder the ability of law enforcement authorities to lawfully access data as part of investigations to prevent and prosecute the most serious crimes, such as child sexual abuse, human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder, economic crimes and terrorist crimes.

During the meeting, NCA Director General Graeme Biggar and Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle emphasized the need for technology companies to maintain law enforcement’s lawful access to data and ensure that their operating systems, devices and applications are secure by design are.

NCA director general Graeme Biggar said: “Encryption can be hugely useful and protect users from a range of crimes. But big tech companies’ blunt and increasingly widespread rollout of end-to-end encryption, without sufficient regard for public safety, is putting users at risk.

“They can’t protect their customers because they can no longer see illegal behavior on their own systems. Child abuse does not stop just because companies choose to stop looking.

“These changes also make it harder for us to investigate serious crime and protect the public, as companies are less able to act on warrants and provide us with the details of suspected criminals.

“Privacy and public safety do not have to be mutually exclusive. Solutions must be found that achieve both. We all have a responsibility to ensure that those who try to abuse these platforms are identified and caught, and that platforms become more secure, not less. We must not allow ourselves to be blinded to the crime.”

Catherine de Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, said: “Our homes are becoming more dangerous than our streets as crime moves online. To keep our society and people safe, we must secure this digital environment. Technology companies have a social responsibility to develop a safer environment in which law enforcement and justice can do their work. If police lose the ability to collect evidence, our society will be unable to protect people from becoming victims of crime.”

The statement comes as technology companies like Meta, which have acted responsibly over the years by proactively reporting suspected cases of child sexual abuse, have made a business decision to implement end-to-end encryption on their messenger platform implement. In recent years, such reports have helped the NCA and British police protect around 1,200 children and arrest around 800 suspects every month. However, the NCA estimates that the vast majority of reports (92% from Facebook and 85% from Instagram) currently distributed to UK police each year will be lost as a result of this decision.

An example of what would be lost is a recent 200-page reference on an international sextortion case, which identified several suspicious accounts posing as women to entice young boys in Britain and abroad to send indecent images and videos of themselves to share, with the intention of financial blackmail.

Law enforcement’s ability to tackle a number of other serious crime threats will also be hampered if tech companies cannot respond to a warrant because the information is hidden behind end-to-end encryption. As a result of one stream of data provided by technology companies in response to arrest warrants, the NCA produced intelligence leading to 327 arrests, the seizure of 3.5 tonnes of Class A drugs, the recovery of £4.8 million, the identification of 29 previously unknown threats to life, and another 100 threats to harm, between January and March this year.

Another example is the identification and arrest of a firearms master, who had stored several weapons and ammunition. Without the ability for tech companies to provide data in response to a lawful order, agents would not have had the opportunity to dismantle a firearms supply chain and seize firearms and ammunition before they entered criminal traffic.

Since Britain left the European Union, the National Crime Agency has continued to work closely with EUROPOL and European partners to tackle the threats of serious and organized crime. The NCA’s network of international liaison officers is working closer than ever with EU partners, with significant successes in the fight against a range of crime threats, including organized immigration crime, drug trafficking and cybercrime.

April 21, 2024