Facebook putting secrecy before accountability, says NSPCC boss

Facebook is placing privacy and secrecy ahead of accountability, according to a children’s charity boss.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC – which has campaigned for regulation for the past two years – said end-to-end encryption on Facebook’s Messenger service is a “risk and a backward step” in keeping children safe online.

The social media giant pledged to begin a “new chapter” in its history as it revealed plans to be more privacy-focused at its annual developer conference in California in April.

Messenger, the app taking the lead in Facebook’s new privacy-focused approach, has been made end-to-end encrypted by default for the first time, fully securing messages sent on the service.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Wanless said: “It places privacy and secrecy ahead of accountability and transparency.

“It’s really disappointing that reaction to the NSPCC’s call for a safer internet is to make it more secret and more dangerous.

“What I would say to Mark Zuckerberg is: you have a duty of care and a responsibility to the people who are using your services, very many of whom are children and young people.”

In April, the Government published its white paper on online harms which threatens tech giants with large fines and criminal liability of bosses.

The white paper, published jointly by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office, proposes strict new rules be introduced that require firms to take responsibility for their users and their safety, as well as the content that appears on their services.

Mr Wanless said the proposals would make the UK a “world pioneer” in protecting children online.