Data Encryption: Its impact on Child Safety Online

  • IASbaba
  • February 17, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

  • Awareness in the fields of IT

Data Encryption: Its impact on Child Safety Online


After Facebook announced end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger and Instagram, a coalition of child protection organisations and experts from all over the world sent a letter to its CEO expressing concerns about company’s proposals.

The encryption proposed will not impact Facebook’s main social platform but all its Messaging services like Facebook Messanger, Instagram Direct and Whatsapp.

What is end-to-end encryption?

  • It is a system of locking messages wherein only those who are communicating can view them. 
  • Encryption kicks in the minute the message is sent, and only unravels for the intended recipient. 
  • No third party can decrypt the message, including platform administrators and law enforcement agencies. 
  • It can only be shared through screenshots. 
  • The advantage with this kind of encryption is that it ensures online privacy.

What it is being criticised?

  • Protection to anti-social content: Paedophiles and persons who wish to exchange child sex abuse material are permanently shielded, as are terrorists and an infinite variety of scam artists.
  • It will be difficult to trace distributors of child pornography/terrorist content.  Such a move will not allow the due process of monitoring for content that is not safe for children.
  • Contradictory provision of Service: Limiting the ability of companies themselves to detect and prevent behaviour which contravenes their own terms of services is wrong and makes a mockery of the very idea of having terms of service in the first place


The true test will be to pick that mode of encryption that will ensure privacy but address concerns of online safety too

Did You know?

  • The Rajya Sabha ad-hoc committee that went into the issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children has called specifically to permit breaking of end-to-end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography. 
  • In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), leading to 2,500 arrests and 3,000 children being safeguarded in the U.K alone.

Connecting the dots!

  • Privacy Vs Ability to monitor anti-social content (Ethical Dilemma for Societies)
  • Justice Sri Krishna Committee on Data protection
  • Facebook’s Free Basics Campaign and Issue of Net Neutrality 

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