[Cryptography] Encryption and anonymity as top tools for images of child sexual abuse

Peter Fairbrother peter at tsto.co.uk
Mon Sep 30 03:28:03 EDT 2019

On 30/09/2019 05:16, Tom Mitchell wrote:
> Difficult... topic

There is fundamentally only one way to look at it - do we allow 
unbreakable encryption or not.

If we do allow it then people will use it to do bad things. Like people 
use shoes or telephones or toilet paper to do bad things (I'm not sure 
what bad things people use toilet paper for, but I'm sure there are some).

If we don't allow unbreakable encryption then modern banking becomes 
impossible. Freedom of speech becomes impossible. And so on.

And then the bad guys will find another way, or just use illegal encryption.

So, to a balance of harms.

Personally, I only care about abuse of children. I do not care per se if 
perverts look at dirty pictures of children, as long as they do not 
abuse children. A senior policeman in the child-abuse field I talked to 
about this once said that the damage continued as the children in the 
pictures are still alive, but I am not sure how significant that is.

So, does looking at dirty pictures of children increase abuse of 
children? No-one knows. There is evidence both ways. There is no 
justification to assume it does - there was plenty of abuse before the 
internet (or photography) was thought of.

How much does encryption help perverts? It made it harder for the Police 
to catch them  -  well actually, no, it didn't. If before the internet 
and encryption it was this hard to catch perverts (when anyone actually 
tried), the internet and encryption didn't make it much if any harder to 
catch them.

Another thing that encryption does not do is make it easier for perverts 
to actually abuse children (except in the way that shoes or telephones do).

There is just [1] this image in some people's heads that if there was no 
encryption then all the perverts would either go away or get caught 
easily and children would be safe and Police bills for catching perverts 
would decrease.

So, if we banned unbreakable encryption, would child abuse fall? By how 
much? Personally I think it might fall a little for a short time, but 
then it would increase back to present levels or even more.

To a final reckoning then, a small temporary decrease in child abuse 
versus no banking and no free speech.

Doesn't seem so difficult now (or any less a horrible choice).

Peter Fairbrother

[1] there are of course also the people with different agendas, such as 
policemen and other workers in the child-abuse field I wouldn't leave a 
child with; and peepers from the Government and elsewhere who (ab)use 
the child abuse issue to try to defeat encryption.

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