WhatsApp could analyze your photos to fight against child crime

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While WhatsApp is accused of a “fault” allowing governments to spy on users, its encryption is in the sights of a draft European regulation. Authorities want to analyze users' photos and videos to identify child pornography content.

The end of messaging encryption in Europe?

This European regulation, supported by child protection associations, was proposed in May 2022 by the Commission to combat sexual abuse of children. The text asks that messaging services like WhatsApp, but also Signal and Telegram, detect child pornography content then alert the authorities. To do this, the encryption must be lifted, allowing images shared between users to be scanned.

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The text proposes two solutions. The first is to remove the encryption of applications so that sendings between users can be analyzed. The second is to maintain the anonymity of exchanges but in return, certain messaging features are deactivated. Sending images, videos and links, in particular.

According to one of the child protection associations, ECPAT France, countries such as Germany are opposed to such a measure for messaging since the privacy of users is impacted. So she waits “a clear position from France on this regulation”.

Voices are raised against this European text

ECPAT France also explains that 62% of child pornography content is hosted in Europe and that messaging services are very popular for their distribution. France is in fifth position among the countries where these images and videos circulate the most, again according to the association. NCMEC, an American NGO, estimates that three child pornography images or videos are published per second, i.e. 100 million reports in 2023 compared to 88 million in 2022.

Some people denounce this text like Patrick Breyer, member of the Pirate Party, who speaks on “blackmail”. Certainly, the end of encryption would make it easier to stop child criminals, but in exchange for total access to the private lives of users who have nothing to reproach themselves for. They would have no choice but to draw a line under certain functionalities to protect their sensitive information from outside eyes.

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