Government agencies and Mark Zuckerberg have differering opinions on how to best keep children safe. While Zuckerberg feels that prevention is the best method, government agencies lean towards detection and prosecution methods.
Zuckerberg recently expanded on his plans in regards to child safety online as the company moves forward with end-to-end protection. However, he is being urged by the US Attorney General (and acting head of Homeland Security) as well as the UK’s Secretary of state for the Home Office and Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs to reconsider end-to-end encryption for the Facebook Messenger App and Instagram.
Zuckerberg on Prevention
Government representatives urged Zuckerberg to reconsider the end-to-end encryption plans, which would ensure that not even Facebook itself would have access to private messages. They claimed that the inability “…to detect and respond to illegal content and activity, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse” among other threats prevented the prosecution of offenders and the ability to safeguard victims.
Zuckerberg responded by identifying other methods of detecting and preventing child grooming even with end-to-end encryption in place which would eliminate all access to private messages. Facebook’s global head of security, Antigone Davis stated, “When you find content, the problem with that is the harm has already been done. Ultimately you want to prevent that content from being shared in the first place, or from being created.” She went on to add, “So the way we are thinking about it is, how can we stop these connections?”
Davis explained that other methods for detection, including pattern detection, would prevent illegal activity and content from being a threat in the first place.
Apple already has end-to-end encryption in place for both their messaging and FaceTime apps. That company has rejected government requests similar to those posed to Facebook. So far, Apple been successful to date in keeping end-to-end protection in place.
What’s Best for Parents?
At the end of the day, keeping your child safe from online solicitation and predators should still start at home. This includes not only what you, as their parent, post online but also how you implement rules and other technology tools to help keep them safe.
Combining home safety with platform technology gives you the power to create the safest possible environment for your children. While we hope that Facebook and Apple are able to find a compromise to the end-to-end encryption problem, it may not happen anytime soon. Relying on corporations or governments is not enough in the war again child solicitation if you are not also doing your part at home.