Priti Patel to back new anti-Facebook ad campaign attacking plans to encrypt messaging services


Priti Patel is set to back a series of ‘anti-Facebook’ adverts targeting the social media giant over its plans to put end-to-end encryption on its messaging services.

The Home Secretary will lend her support to the charity-led advertising campaign, which will accuse Facebook of ‘blindfolding’ the police in their investigations into child sex abuse.

Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, is planning to roll out end-to-end encryption on all of its messaging services. 

This includes recently announced plans to encrypt voice and video calls on Facebook Messenger.

It means third parties, including Facebook themselves, will no longer be able to eavesdrop on online conversations.

But Ms Patel and top police officials have previously warned that encryption could turn online platforms into ‘superplatforms’ for paedophiles.

There also concerns encryption could hamper terrorism investigations.

Ms Patel previously warning the social media giant could be fined if MI5 are denied access to messages.

Now the Home Secretary will step up her efforts to prevent Facebook from rolling out encryption for its messaging services by backing a series of aggressive advertisements attacking the policy.

The Home Secretary will lend her support to the advertising campaign, which will accuse Facebook (pictured: Owner Mark Zuckerberg) of 'blindfolding' the police in their investigations into child sex abuse

Priti Patel (pictured left) is set to back a series of ‘anti-Facebook’ adverts targeting the social media giant over its plans to extend end-to-end encryption for its messaging services. The Home Secretary will lend her support to the advertising campaign, which will accuse Facebook (pictured right: Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg) of ‘blindfolding’ the police in their investigations into child sex abuse

Facebook is planning to roll out end-to-end encryption on all of its messaging services, including voice and video calls. It means third parties, including Facebook themselves, will no longer be able to eavesdrop on online conversations

Facebook is planning to roll out end-to-end encryption on all of its messaging services, including voice and video calls. It means third parties, including Facebook themselves, will no longer be able to eavesdrop on online conversations

What is end-to-end encryption and why are police concerned about Facebook’s plan to implement it in its messaging services? 

End-to-end encryption is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. 

In basic terms, the system, used in major messaging services such as WhatsApp, works by encrypting the message from the sender’s device – essentially providing a ‘digital lock’.

It is then sent to the intended device, which is provided with a method to unravel the encryption – essentially a ‘digital key’.

But no one else has access to this ‘digital key’ meaning it cannot be seen by a third party – including the messaging service.

Other types of messaging services often encrypt in transit, meaning the message can be accessible to the service provider. 

The biggest benefit is privacy, because it prevents eavesdropping by messaging services and internet providers.

End-to-end encryption is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages (pictured: Library image of a hooded man using a mobile phone)

End-to-end encryption is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages (pictured: Library image of a hooded man using a mobile phone) 

But it can also make retrieving the message near impossible without having access to one of the devices used.

Facebook want to set up end-to-end encryption across the company’s messaging services, in what the company say will be a boost to privacy.

But it has raised concerns among police chiefs, because messages on social media sites can play a key role in police investigations.

One person to raise concern about the move is Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Southworth, head of Britain’s squad of anti-terrorist cyber police.

He said such a move would ‘unequivocally put lives at risk’.

The Metropolitan Police officer told The Mail on Sunday earlier this year: ‘For such a strong form of encryption to be placed around so much private communication worldwide automatically makes the police and other law enforcement agencies’ jobs more difficult.

‘I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that a move such as this would make life extremely difficult for law enforcement everywhere to be able to identify and mitigate the threats we face as a society.’

The adverts are aimed at winning over public opinion against end-to-end encryption and will be run in newspapers and on radio and television within weeks, the paper reports.

They are being organised by a ‘coalition of charities’ and are being drawn up by international marketing firm M&C Saatchi, according to the Times.

The Home Office is not in charge of the advertising campaign, though Ms Patel is reportedly ‘supportive’ of the adverts.

A Government source told the Times: ‘It’s about making sure that all of the people who are concerned about this are having their voice heard.’

MailOnline has contacted Facebook for comment.

A Home Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Our number one priority is the protection of children and public safety. 

‘Technology companies must take responsibility for tackling the most serious illegal content on their platforms and protecting their users, including our children.

‘We have engaged M&C Saatchi to bring together the many organisations who share our concerns about the impact end to end encryption would have on our ability to keep children safe.

‘M&C Saatchi’s support to partners includes PR and communications advice to work towards the shared goal of protecting children online.’

Last month it was revealed that Facebook would roll out encryption for voice or video calls made through its Messenger app.

The company, founded by tech entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, announced in August that it is also adding controls for its disappearing messages and a select few users may also be able to test other features related to encryption. 

The move is part of Facebook’s plans to increase privacy on its messaging services. 

WhatsApp messages are already protected by end-to-end encryption – which is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. 

In basic terms, the system, works by encrypting the message from the sender’s device – essentially providing a ‘digital lock’.

It is then sent to the intended device, which is provided with a method to unravel the encryption – essentially a ‘digital key’.

But no one else has access to this ‘digital key’ meaning it cannot be seen by a third party – including the hosts of the messaging service.

Other types of messaging services often encrypt in transit, meaning the message can be accessible to the service provider. 

The biggest benefit is privacy, because it prevents eavesdropping by messaging services and internet providers.

But security officials have raised major concerns about the plans, because it would make it near impossible for police and security services to access messages.

They want this is of particular concern in cases of child grooming, where messages sent between the offender and the victim are often key in securing a conviction. 

In February, Rob Jones, director of threat leadership at NCA, criticised Facebook for its plans to introduce the security standard to both Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

Jones called end-to-end encryption a ‘high-risk experiment’ and a ‘disaster for child safety and law enforcement’.

He said the communications system puts the ‘pursuit of profit above the safety of the people on their platform, particularly children’.

There is even a ‘very real risk’ that more child sex offenders could move to Facebook if end-to-end encryption is installed on the platform, according to Jones.

He also revealed that the NCA had received just under 24,000 child abuse tip-offs from Facebook and Instagram last year, but only 308 from WhatsApp.

WhatsApp messages are already protected by end-to-end encryption - which is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages

WhatsApp messages are already protected by end-to-end encryption – which is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages

The figures suggest that more criminals go undetected on WhatsApp because it features end-to-end encryption.  

In May, Ms Patel warned that the social media firm was operating in ‘dangerous territory’ and risking public safety with its plans for stronger encryption. 

She warned that social media firms could be fined if security services are denied access to messages. 

Miss Patel told Times Radio in April: ‘We’ll bring changes, we will legislate [and] we will absolutely fine companies because this is a dangerous territory for Facebook to be operating in.’

MI5’s director general Ken McCallum last week accused the social media giant of giving terrorists a ‘free pass’ with its plan.

But a Facebook spokesman said: ‘End-to-end encryption is already the leading security technology used by many services to keep people safe from hackers and criminals.

‘Its full rollout on our messaging services is a long-term project and we are building strong safety measures into our plans.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk