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EU law requiring Big Tech to scan for child abuse does not work




The problem is that many privacy advocates consider it incompatible with end-to-end encryption. Strictly speaking, this means that only the sender and the intended recipient can view the content. This violates end-to-end encryption and has the effect of harmful material, as the proposed EU regulations require technology companies to report detected child sexual abuse material to the EU Center. It forces a trade-off between detection and user privacy.

Recognition of new hazardous substances

For new content, that is, images and videos that are not included in the hash database, there is no such proven technical solution. Top engineers are working on this issue, building and training AI tools that can handle large amounts of data. Both Google and Thorn, a non-governmental organization for child safety, have had some success in using machine learning classifiers to help companies identify potential new child sexual abuse material. ..

However, the usefulness of the tool cannot be evaluated without independently validated data about the accuracy of the tool. Mandatory reports break end-to-end encryption, even if accuracy and speed are comparable to hash-matching technology.

The new content also includes live streams, but the proposed regulations seem to overlook the unique challenges posed by this technology. During the pandemic, livestreaming technology became widespread, and the creation of child sexual abuse material from livestreamed content increased dramatically.

More and more children are being tempted or forced to livestream sexually explicit acts that viewers may record or screen capture. Child safety groups note that the creation of “perceived first-person child sexual abuse material,” that is, apparent ego child sexual abuse material, has increased exponentially over the past few years. .. In addition, traffickers may livestream child sexual abuse for criminals who pay to watch.

The circumstances that lead to recorded and livestreamed child sexual abuse material are very different, but the technology is the same. Also, there is currently no technical solution that can detect the creation of material on child sexual abuse. The technical safety company SafeToNet is developing a real-time detection tool but is not ready to launch it.

Solicitation detection

The detection of the third category, “Solicitation Language”, also fails. The tech industry has made devoted efforts to identify the indicators needed to identify the words of solicitation and temptation, but the results are mixed. Microsoft led Project Artemis, which led to the development of anti-grooming tools. This tool is designed to detect the temptation and solicitation of children for sexual purposes.

However, as the proposed regulation points out, the accuracy of this tool is 88%. In 2020, the popular messaging app WhatsApp delivered about 100 billion messages daily. If the tool identifies even 0.01% of the messages as “positive” for the soliciting language, human reviewers will need to read 10 million messages daily to identify the 12% false positives. Yes, the tool is simply not practical.

Like all the detection methods above, this also breaks end-to-end encryption. However, while other tools may be limited to checking the hash value of the image, this tool needs access to all the exchanged text.

No pass

The European Commission may be taking such an ambitious approach in the hope of spurring innovation that will lead to more accurate and reliable detection methods. However, without existing tools that can meet these obligations, regulation will not work.

If I have an obligation to take action, but there is no way to go, I believe that disconnection simply leaves the industry without the clear guidance and direction these regulations are intended to provide.

Laura Draper is a Senior Project Director at Tech, Law & Security Program at American University.




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