Five Eyes nations vow to step up efforts to counter online child abuse material

Five Eyes nations vow to step up efforts to counter online child abuse material

Security officials from the Five Eyes security alliance have called for tech giants to allow backdoor access to encrypted content on WhatsApp and other communications platforms in order to combat sex offenders and the circulation of child abuse material.

The “Five Eyes” nations — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States — say urgent action is needed from the companies to combat live-streaming of child sexual abuse.

Executives from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Roblox, Snapchat and Microsoft have until September to demonstrate the actions they have taken to combat these “abhorrent crimes.”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who led the talks on combatting child exploitation, said the companies had a moral obligation to allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to encrypted data.

“It’s about the privacy of children,” Mr Dutton told 2GB Radio from London on Friday (local time). “We need to protect the victims here. We need to make sure that the rights of the victims are put above the rights of the offenders. To most Australians, I think that’s common sense.”

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British agency that monitors and cracks encrypted communications, has suggested that Silicon Valley companies could develop technology that would silently add a police officer or intelligence agent to conversations and group chats.

The controversial “ghost protocol” has been fiercely opposed by companies, civil society organisations and some security experts, but intelligence and law enforcement agencies continue to lobby for it.

Police say they have been unable to access hundreds of WhatsApp messages sent by at least one of those involved in the 2017 London Bridge attack because an acquaintance of the perpetrators had refused to hand over his phone.

WhatsApp has been improving its security after it emerged earlier this year that a flaw had been exploited by an Israeli spyware company, which allowed software used by intelligence agencies to covertly take control of a person’s phone.

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