How the NSPCC rigged its report on the dangers of end-to-end encryption

Barry Collins
8 min readApr 22, 2021
The NSPCC is targeting Facebook’s encryption plans (Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay)

The NSPCC claims to have a delivered a ‘balanced’ report on the dangers of end-to-end encryption — but it was anything but ‘balanced’

Is Facebook making life easier for child abusers by introducing end-to-end encryption across all of its messaging services? That’s certainly the message that the UK’s Home Secretary and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) wanted to get out this week — and it worked, with even the more liberal end of the UK press, such as The Guardian, parroting the message without much question.

The Guardian website

The NSPCC backed up its claims with a research paper, written by PA Consulting, entitled End-to-End Encryption — Understanding the impacts for child safety online.

The NSPCC claims the “balanced” report “collates the viewpoints of a broad range of stakeholders” so as to “raise understanding of the impact that ubiquitous end-to-end encryption would have on children’s online safety”.

In fact, as I will show, this hugely imbalanced report encapsulates a very narrow set of stakeholders, many of whom have long fought against end-to-end encryption or have a vested interest in doing so. The views of those who champion the security and privacy benefits of end-to-end encryption were either ignored or airbrushed out of the report.

The government’s war on encryption

Let’s be clear: the government hasn’t suddenly arrived at the conclusion that end-to-end encryption is a bad thing because of the NSPCC’s report. It has long opposed its use in apps such as WhatsApp, even if the argument that it’s aiding child abusers is a relatively recent development.

Back in 2017, the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, was railing against end-to-end encryption when WhatsApp was used to coordinate a terror attack on London. “We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” she said at the time.

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