UK Government Readies Anti-Encryption Publicity Campaign to 'Keep Children Safe' Online

The British Government is reportedly preparing a publicity attack on end-to-end encryption in an effort to mobilize public opinion against the technology by framing it as a child safety issue, with its main aim being to derail Facebook's plan to end-to-end encrypt its Messenger platform.

s960 2MS Home Office sign 960x640
According to Rolling Stone, the Home Office has hired the M&C Saatchi advertising agency to plan the campaign, which will include a media blitz with TV ads, campaigning efforts from UK charities and law enforcement agencies, calls to action for the public to contact tech companies directly, and multiple real-world stunts, some of which have been designed to make the public "uneasy."

According to documents reviewed by Rolling Stone, one the activities considered as part of the publicity offensive is a striking stunt — placing an adult and child (both actors) in a glass box, with the adult looking "knowingly" at the child as the glass fades to black. Multiple sources confirmed the campaign was due to start this month, with privacy groups already planning a counter-campaign.

The anti-encryption stance from the UK government isn't new, but its latest effort is focused on the argument that improved encryption would hamper efforts to tackle child exploitation online. "We have engaged M&C Saatchi to bring together the many organizations who share our concerns about the impact end-to-end encryption would have on our ability to keep children safe," a Home Office spokesperson told Rolling Stone.

In a presentation produced by the UK government to recruit potential not-for-profit coalition partners, one slide notes that "most of the public have never heard" of end-to-end encryption, which means "people can be easily swayed" on the issue. Tellingly, the slide also notes that the campaign "must not start a privacy vs safety debate."

The UK government has allocated £534,000 ($730,500) of public funds for the campaign, according to a letter sent from the Home Office in response to a freedom of information request.

Facebook, recently rebranded to "Meta," has already delayed plans to use end-to-end encryption for Messenger and Instagram messages until at least 2023, a year later than previously planned. Meta said the delay was to give it extra time to coordinate with experts in the field of combating online abuse while also protecting user privacy.

Messaging platforms like Signal, Telegram, Facebook's WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage all use end-to-end encryption that prevents communications between sender and recipient from being accessed by anyone else, including the service providers. Security experts have long argued that weakening encrypted systems for such platforms would mean weakening security for everyone.

Both Meta and Apple have long fought against anti-encryption legislation and attempts to weaken platform and device encryption. In 2019, Meta successfully challenged a court order to force it to decrypt Facebook Messenger calls. The order was the result of an investigation into the MS-13 gang's activities on Facebook Messenger in California.

Apple's most public battle against the US government came in 2016, after Apple was ordered to help the FBI unlock the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

Apple opposed the order and claimed that it would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption. Apple ultimately held its ground and the U.S. government backed off after finding an alternate way to access the device, but Apple has continually had to deal with further law enforcement efforts to combat encryption.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

calstanford Avatar
18 weeks ago
The UK government is one of the most horrible in the western world. No wonder CCTV capital of the world wants to read all your messages too.
Score: 55 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GaymerAdam Avatar
18 weeks ago
The same UK government that uses WhatsApp to avoid freedom of information requests and corruption investigations? ?
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple Knowledge Navigator Avatar
18 weeks ago
There might be the added bonus of investigating parties/“work events”, no?
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tw!sted Avatar
18 weeks ago
I'm absolutely livid that the government is wasting half a million quid of OUR money on this ****.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nwcs Avatar
18 weeks ago
Maybe it's time for the other side to start a publicity campaign to explain what can happen without end to end encryption. Plenty of examples to draw from ranging from government corruption to personal corruption. That would effectively create the privacy vs safety debate they're trying to avoid with this campaign. And it's a good debate to have and no real solution, likely, that makes everyone happy.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
insoft.uk Avatar
18 weeks ago
Criminals will just use one of the many third party encryption apps, one could even continue to use messenger or SMS and just send the text pre-encrypted, it’s a wast of time and effort by the government the only people that will lose out is the public as the government will be able to spy on them and that’s their real goal not the criminals that’s a smoke screen
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Whatsapp E2EE Backups

WhatsApp to Let Users Encrypt Chat Backups Uploaded to iCloud

Saturday September 11, 2021 1:53 am PDT by
WhatsApp has announced it will give its two billion users the option to upload their chat backups to Apple's iCloud using password-protected encryption. Currently, WhatsApp on iPhone lets users back up their chat history to ‌iCloud‌, but messages and media that users back up aren't protected by WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption while in ‌‌Apple's cloud servers‌. Given that Apple...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp Readies Message Reactions for iPhone and Android

Wednesday February 2, 2022 4:21 am PST by
WhatsApp's plan to bring iMessage-style message reactions to the massively popular chat platform appears to be entering its final stages, based on new screenshots shared by WABetaInfo. WhatsApp has been working on message reactions – or "Tapbacks" in Apple Messages parlance – for some time, with evidence of their development first coming to light last summer. The feature gives...
zoom app icon

Zoom to Pay $85 Million to Users for Misleading Encryption Claims

Wednesday August 4, 2021 1:00 am PDT by
As part of a class action lawsuit settlement, Zoom says it will pay $85 million to users for misleading them about offering end-to-end encryption on its videoconferencing service. According to ArsTechnica, the company was accused of lying about its encryption description on its website and in a security white paper, as well as providing user data to Facebook and Google without users'...
facebook

Facebook Crowned 'Worst Company of 2021' by New Survey

Sunday December 19, 2021 3:47 am PST by
Facebook, otherwise known as Meta, has been crowned the worst company of the year, following a turbulent 12 months of controversies, public backlash, and an eventual entire rebrand of the social media giant, according to a survey conducted by Yahoo Finance. Yahoo Finance every year crowns the best company of the year, with Microsoft taking the top spot for 2021. This year, however, Yahoo...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp Polling Feature for Chat Groups Currently in Beta

Monday March 7, 2022 3:09 am PST by
WhatsApp is working on letting users conduct polls within groups on the chat platform, the latest beta for iOS has revealed (via WABetaInfo). The coming ability to create polls within WhatsApp groups was confirmed in screenshots that show the process of setting one up, with users able to ask a poll question and group members able to choose from pre-defined answers. Polls will only be...
tim cook mark zuckerberg

Apple's Privacy Measures to Cost Facebook $10 Billion in 2022

Thursday February 3, 2022 12:30 am PST by
Facebook has said measures being taken by Apple on iOS that make it harder for platforms and apps to track users across other apps and websites will cost its business $10 billion in 2022. Facebook yesterday reported $33.67 billion in revenue, and while higher than expected, earnings per share were shy of analyst expectations. Facebook, renamed to Meta, also offered lower guidance for the...
Whatsapp Feature

Facebook Reportedly Researching Ways to Use Encrypted WhatsApp Messages for Targeted Advertisements

Tuesday August 3, 2021 7:24 am PDT by
Facebook is researching ways to analyze encrypted data, such as WhatsApp messages, without actually decrypting the information, according to a new report from The Information. The report cites that Facebook has confirmed it is building a team of artificial intelligence researchers to "study ways of analyzing encrypted data without decrypting it." While it is still early in development, the...
apple privacy

Apple Makes iCloud Safari Bookmarks End-To-End Encrypted [Updated]

Monday October 4, 2021 1:28 am PDT by
Apple has toggled end-to-end encryption for Safari bookmarks in iCloud, further expanding the type of user data that the company fully encrypts, offering the highest level of privacy and data protection. Spotted on Reddit, an update to Apple's "iCloud security overview" page has indicated that alongside Safari tabs and history, Safari bookmarks are now end-to-end encrypted, meaning no one,...

Popular Stories

anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

Friday May 20, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device. Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple's AR/VR Headset Nearing Completion as Board Gets Demo

Thursday May 19, 2022 9:52 am PDT by
Apple last week demonstrated its upcoming AR/VR headset to Apple board members, indicating that the device is in an advanced stage of development and could see a debut in the not too distant future, reports Bloomberg. Apple has also ramped up development of the software that runs on the headset, with that software expected to be called "RealityOS," or rOS for short. Render via designer Ian ...