End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is important for protecting privacy and personal data. However, the steps taken to increase privacy measures should not come at a cost to children. As a society, we have an obligation to protect those most vulnerable. The individual privacy rights and liberties of survivors whose child sexual abuse is recorded and shared online must be accounted for when making policy decision around privacy protections such as E2EE.
Child sexual abuse material has no intrinsic social value and constitutes a clear and continuing violation of the rights of a child, and should not be considered as being in competition with the right to privacy in communications. There is no question that citizens are entitled to their privacy. However, children also have rights, and it is their rights that, to date, have not been accounted for in a serious way.
Not only is the ongoing availability of these images/videos a repeated violation of the privacy of these children; it is dehumanizing and represents an assault on their dignity every time the material is viewed or shared. Even more egregious, the children within these recordings are commonly fully visible and possibly identifiable to anyone who may know them. This visibility not only heightens the degree of the privacy violation, but also presents an obvious risk to the child’s personal safety and psychological security, now and in the future.
We strongly believe that we have a collective responsibility to do all that we can to eradicate images and videos of this nature in order to significantly decrease demand and distribution, as well as eliminate the ongoing harm from the continued availability. Children will continue to be victimized as more technology companies implement E2EE as a means of abdicating responsibility for content on their system.
“We are hearing more and more examples of perpetrators of these crimes gaining privacy rights that ease their ability to continue to perpetrate, such as the recent announcement by [a popular platform] to implement end-to-end encryption in their messaging software, but what we are not hearing about are concrete plans regarding the protection and privacy of children whose images of sexual abuse are shared through this software. I am here to represent the millions of children that no one will ever hear about in the media or who will not be heard in a courtroom and ask that governments take the responsibility of protecting the rights and privacy of children into their hands and force industry to account for these rights as well. To stop a global epidemic we must address child sexual abuse imagery and its distribution as a committed and united front.”