You are currently browsing EDRi's old website. Our new website is available at

If you wish to help EDRI promote digital rights, please consider making a private donation.

Flattr this


EDRi booklets

Facebook-funded “child protection” event turns into privacy bashing

24 April, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Facebooks „Kinderschutz“-Veranstaltung führt zur Demontage des Da...

On 11 April 2013, a conference on the global fight against online child sexual abuse content took place at the European Parliament. It was organised by the Internet Watch Foundation, with the support of Facebook. The topic was the rather uncontroversial topic of cooperation in the fight against online child abuse content.

Speakers from Europe, Asia, America and Africa reflected on how to make the Internet a safe place for children, which measures have already been taken and what are the next steps in this fight going to be. Everyone agreed that in order to go further in the global fight against online child sexual abuse an increasing awareness on this problem is needed as well as common (but not harmonised as they assumed it will be impossible) definitions of "minor" and "abuse" and a major international cooperation. The fact that the Internet Watch Foundation (or the vast majority of hotlines funded by the European Commission) has failed to produce useful statistics on the scale of the problem and current trends, appeared to be of little concern.

After all speakers explained their work and achievements in child online protection, a series of questions were asked by both the moderator, the technology reporter Kate Russell, and the audience. Throughout the two questions sessions, data protection and privacy were characterised as a major obstacle to fighting online child abuse. Although there was a complete lack of debate on this question, speakers did make some striking statements. Emma McClarkin MEP said that when online child protection was discussed in the European Parliament and Commission, she was “shocked” about the existence of controversy on this topic as she thought that everyone would agree with the need to protect children and that in order to make the internet a safer place for them every existing tools should be use, “even blocking”.

Without addressing key child protection concerns like effective use of available resources and possible counter-productive effects of knee-jerk reactions, Ms. McClarkin declared that she didn’t understand the opinion of organisations defending data protection and privacy as in this particular issue we need “to forget about the technology tools and think about the victims”. She went further adding that digital protection associations were acting against child protection as they don’t realise how important the problem is and that the focus should not be on data protection but on “the need to protect children from themselves”.

In this attack against digital rights organisations, she was joined by the Senior Specialist with the European Cyber Crime Centre, Jean-Charles Schweitzer, who was completely shocked to hear the "P-word" as “there is no such thing as privacy involved in fighting child abuse”. Simon Milner, Director of Policy in Facebook for the UK and Ireland, was next on this one way conversation explaining that Facebook wants “the world to be safe” and understands the concern on privacy but didn’t really know why his company was receiving criticism from people defending privacy and data protection because it uses data to identify dubious behaviours. Finally, in his intervention, he talked about the efficiency of the Microsoft and Dartmouth College technology, "PhotoDNA", without providing us with any data or concrete achievement. Cornelia Kutterer, director of the EU Institutions Relations at Microsoft then explained that, thanks to this tool, they were convinced that they were protecting privacy as it protects children’s privacy.

Evidence? Effectiveness? Proportionality? All unnecessary? Privacy for children is apparently unnecessary when most abuse is carried out by a caregiver or someone that the child knows and lack of privacy can mean lack of an escape route? The “experts” believe none of this is necessary. Funded by Facebook.

Link to the Conference agenda with the name of all speakers (11.04.2013)

(Contribution by Estelle Massé (EDRi Intern) and Joe McNamee - EDRi)



Syndicate contentCreative Commons License

With financial support from the EU's Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme.
eu logo