End-to-end encryption: Meta says will step up transparency, screening

Meta has agreed to completely implement 34 of the 45 recommendations made by independent organisation Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) as a part of its Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) report on end-to-end encryption in messaging and social media platforms.

Responding to the report in which BSR has made 45 suggestions such as providing users the option to report problems in a more consistent, cohesive and accessible way, ensuring that these features are easy to find, Meta said that while 34 were being accepted by the company, it would partly implement four, while assessing the feasibility of another six.

Meta said it would not take any action for now on one recommendation under which BSR had recommended that the company continue to evaluate client-side scanning as an approach to address the presence of child sexual abuse material on its platforms.

BSR suggested that Meta continue to look for ways in which it can scan for child sexual abuse material among messages transmitted on its platforms without breaking the end-to-end encryption.

BSR said while end-to-end encryption was the only way to “ truly protect the privacy of communications” and that it should not be banned or weakened in any manner, it must not restrict the rights of children to be protected from child sexual abuse content which is present on the various platforms. In its response on why Meta would take no action on the issue, the company said any form of client-side scanning of messages without consent and control of the user or sender was “fundamentally incompatible” with an end-to-end encryption messaging service.

“This would be the case even with theoretical approaches that could maintain ‘cryptographic integrity’ such as via a technology like homomorphic encryption—which the HRIA rightly notes is a nascent technology whose feasibility in this context is still speculative,” Meta said in its response.

The human rights impact assessment of extending end-to-end encryption across all Meta’s messaging services was commissioned by the company in October 2019. The objective of the report was to identify and prioritise the potential impact of end-to-end encryption plan of Meta on human rights, and the possible risks and opportunities associated with it.

BSR was also asked to recommend an action plan that would minimise the risks, and build Meta staff capacity to help ensure that the end-to-end encryption was implemented in a manner that was consistent with human rights.

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